Any law that empowers the government to confiscate and/ or auction the vehicle or other property of a citizen for an alleged offense(s), without fair hearing and due process is unconstitutional and void. Such a law offends the fundamental rights to fair hearing and property.
The court of law will declare such a law inconsistent with the provisions of 36 and 43 of the Constitution which guarantees the rights of every person to fair hearing and ownership of property, respectively. Lagos State Government claims that Mobile Courts permitted the auctions.
That is not a sufficient answer to the constitutionality issues arising from the auctions. What procedures were followed in securing the orders from the Mobile Courts? Since traffic violations are criminal offences, offenders must first be tried before punishment can be imposed.
Did the Lagos State Government auction the vehicles after the offenders were arraigned and prosecuted? It has been claimed by agents of the government that many of the owners of the auctioned vehicles refused to avail themselves of the court process. This raises more questions.
If the owners or drivers of some of the vehicles didn’t appear in court, and not convicted, as alluded to by agents of the Lagos State Government, should we infer that they were tried in absentia? How did the Mobile Courts assume jurisdiction over the cases? Who were the parties?
Or should we assume that the orders authorizing the vehicles to be auctioned were made in civil proceedings, and not in criminal cases? The basis of the auction is that offences were committed. Where are the charge sheets? Those vehicles most likely had license plate numbers.
The identities and locations of the owners of the vehicles can be easily traced through their license plate numbers. What steps or efforts were made to trace the ‘fleeing’ drivers who “abandoned” their vehicles? The government can’t punish offenders without following due process.
Again, I insist that there are so many unanswered questions shrouding the auctions. I hope we will get answers to these questions. We should not approach this issue from a sentimental standpoint. Without insistence on due process, law enforcers can easily become law breakers.
To those defending the auctioning of the vehicles because it has been claimed that Mobile Court authorized it, have you been to the Lagos State Mobile Court before? From my experience, the Mobile Court operates basically like a revenue court. I won’t say more than that.