No fewer than 40 motorists have forfeited their vehicles to the government in about three weeks for driving against traffic, The Nation has learnt. At the Mobile Court in Oshodi, Lagos, last Thursday, Magistrate Lateef Owolesi convicted four persons and ordered the forfeiture of their vehicles to the government.
Sixty-one-year-old Thomas Onnoghen, Yusuf Ajibade, Elisha Isaac and Sodiq Hassan were convicted after pleading guilty to the charges against them.
Magistrate Owolesi said: “The only conviction is that your vehicle is forfeited to the Lagos State Government. So, these four defendants that are before this court, having undergone trial, their vehicles shall remain forfeited to the Lagos State Government. That is the judgment.
Speaking with The Nation yesterday, LASTMA General Manager Olawale Musa said no fewer than 40 vehicles had been forfeited to the government in the last few weeks.
“Once your vehicle is impounded for driving against traffic, the person will forfeit the vehicle to the government. After that, the government decides what to do with the vehicle. It becomes government property. ”
The forfeiture, he said, was meant to deter others from driving against traffic.
Noting that many people have lost their lives to one-way drive, Olawale said: “By the time we start plying one-way, we compound traffic problems, it becomes very difficult for the officers to handle, and it is also very dangerous for passers-by.
“We really need to tame this tide and this is why we are telling the public to stop plying one-way. There are vital things we must learn before you drive on the road. It is not when you get to the road that we begin to teach you the road signs. If you do not know the rules, please do not play the game.”
He said some of the offenders arrested last year absconded, hence the delay in their trial.
According to him, they cannot be tried in absentia.
“You have to give them time to come. Some people run away when you apprehend their vehicles, they don’t come to court and we don’t have the power to confiscate the vehicle, it’s only the court that can confiscate a vehicle, so, they need to come to court and the court makes a pronouncement,” he said.
The offenders appealed to the government to temper justice with mercy.
Hassan told The Nation that “I was going to work in Apapa and there was traffic. I got a call that my wife, who is an asthmatic patient, had an attack. I had to follow one-way to save her life. I know I am guilty. I’m just appealing to the government to help me so that I can get my car back. I use it as a private car. If I lose this car, it will affect me and my struggling family.”
He said: “The trailers blockade the road. I thought it was the best thing for me at that time to ply one-way. I saw that the road was totally blocked. My car is Toyota Paseo, KRD 332 BP. I’m a businessman. I use the car to do business. I sell provisions. I used the car to get the goods to my customers. I admit that I’m guilty. I already know my offence. I plead with the Lagos State Government to show mercy and forgive me. I promise this will never happen again in my entire life because since when this car has been taken away from me, my business has stopped. It has affected everybody in my family seriously. I was arrested on August 2, 2018. The car is worth N550,000.”