I read about this new law below by Lagos State which criminalizes traffic violations committed by Lagosians. Of course I get what the State is trying to do. This law, when enforced, will help reduce traffic jams significantly which already cripple the productivity of the entire state, it will help reduce fatal accidents on the road and car accidents in general; and the monies generated from those who violate the law would or should go into helping with rebuilding Lagos State’s infrastructure.
The question, however, is whether the proposed penalties for violation of traffic laws are too harsh. I believe they are, especially laws that could see a person imprisoned for three years. I also think the poor might be highly affected in terms of incarceration. If you can’t afford 50,000 Naira, what’s your recourse? None. You spend three years in prison.
I hope Governor Fashola trims the sentencing a bit so the result is not too harsh.
If you all are wondering what the new law means from a criminal law standpoint, be sure to read my commentary below. Do note you should get a lawyer when you are charged with a crime. Lawyers at The Nigerian Bar Association are available to help you navigate the confusing and intimidating Criminal Hall of Justice should you find yourself in that situation.
The story of the new law:
“Motorists that drive on one-way traffic in Lagos will now pay a fine of N50, 000 or serve a three year jail term, following the passing of the new bill the Lagos State House of Assembly on Sunday.
The bill which comprises new amended traffic law, is now before the governor Babatunde Fashola for his assent. The bill stipulates that driving in a direction prohibited by the road traffic law will attract a fine of N50, 000 or three year jail term or both, while a first offender gets one year term.
The bill also stipulates that bullion vans that drive driving in a direction prohibited by the road traffic law will be forfeited to the state government while vehicles abandoned on highway will be fined N50, 000.
According to schedule (1) section (2) of traffic offences and penalties as stated in the bill, riding a motor-cycle popularly referred to as Okada by Lagosians against traffic, riding on the kerb, median or road setbacks, first time offender will paid N20,000 fine while subsequent offender will pay a fine of N30,000 or the riders motorcycle be impounded. . .” – Full Story on ChannelsTV.com
What is a Felony? What is a Misdemeanor?
When a defendant is arrested, with or without a warrant, they have a right to know what they are charged with i.e. the basis for the arrest. Nigeria’s prosecutors can charge criminal defendants with felony and/or misdemeanors offenses. In Nigeria, a felony carries 3years or more prison term while a misdemeanor carries 6months (at a minimum) to 3years jail/prison term.
What Happens When a Person is Arrested in Nigeria?
- Nigeria’s Constitution requires when a police effectuates an arrest without a warrant AND the crime is a non-capital offense, they must release the defendant on bail; IF they cannot bring the defendant before a court within 24hours from the time they arrested and detained such defendant.
How About Bail? How Does that Work?
The police have the broad discretion per the Criminal Procedure Act to determine whether they will grant a criminal defendant bail. The judges/judiciary tend to be passive letting the police basically do whatever they want to do. This creates opportunities of abuse that has been ongoing for decades within the legal justice system, specifically detentions without trials.
How Bad Does it Get with Detentions Without Trials in Nigeria?
According to data collected by human rights organizations within and outside Nigeria,most of the people who are in Nigeria’s jail/prison system are persons detained without trial who ended up being detained for 16-40years. The outcry from the international community over these atrocities has been huge but it has not really made much of a difference.
Where Can You Go to Learn More About Your Legal Rights
The Nigerian Bar Association now has a revamped website fit for the 21st century. You can visit the website at www.nba.org.ng for resources and to find a lawyer for your legal problems in Nigeria.