Officers of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Abuja have been exposed for compelling motorists, who commit traffic offenses, to pay fines into the account of a private company. One of the victims of the apparent fraudulent practice is Ahmed Tijani Yusuf, an Abuja-based lawyer. Displeased by the insistence of FRSC officials to pay into the account of a private company, Mr. Yusuf first petitioned the FRSC Corps Marshal. Nothing came out of his petition. He took his complaints to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which also carried out no investigation, a situation that forced the lawyer to petition the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), both of which also did nothing. Mr. Yusuf also appeared before the Federal House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions in respect of his case against FRSC, but that effort, so far, has yielded no resolution.
His troubles began on February 11, 2016, when, as Mr. Yusuf told SaharaReporters, the FRSC impounded his Toyota Camry car with registration number GWA 546 FB. According to him, the car was parked in an area designated for parking. But on getting to where he parked, Mr. Yusuf discovered that the car was not there. He initially thought it had been stolen but was told by bystanders that they saw some people towing vehicles to the Federal Secretariat Parking Lot in Abuja
“I quickly rushed to the place to see if my vehicle was among those towed inside. Luckily, I found my car but discovered that the two front tyres had been deflated. I saw a group of Road Safety officers seated under a canopy near the area with several other persons without uniform,” he said.
Mr. Yusuf approached them to find out what the matter was and was told he obstructed traffic by parking in a wrong place. He explained that he is a lawyer, requesting the FRSC to open its case and prove that his car was parked in an inappropriate place. He equally demanded to be allowed to call witnesses to testify that he did not park inappropriately and did not obstruct traffic.
FRSC responded by immediately handing him a Notice of Offence with the charge of Road Obstruction (ROB), which carries a fine of N3,000 payable into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the Federal Government. He was not too alarmed about that. What followed left him stunned. The FRSC issued him another bill cash/receipt of N5,000 belonging to a private company with the name Nobipet Oil Limited.
“The officer told me to pay the said N5,000 into the said private company’s account number 1011755941 with Zenith Bank plc, making a total of N8,000 to be paid differently to enable me to take my car,” he said.
The lawyer asked why he was being asked to pay to a private company, insisting the appropriate thing to do was to pay into the TSA. But the officer insisted that he must pay into the account of the company, which he said is contracted by the FRSC to tow vehicles on its behalf.
Mr. Yusuf proceeded to pay as directed because he needed his car.
“The reason I made these payments was because I needed my car, not because I was guilty as charged. I was given a print out from Zenith Bank when I paid into the TSA,” he said.
At about 6 pm that day, he was issued with a “Release of Vehicle/Motorcycle” document after presenting evidence of both payments. With the document, he collected his car from the parking lot.
Sore about the way he was treated and the dodgy transaction it involved, Mr. Yusuf petitioned the FRSC to demand, within seven days, a refund of N8,000, an unreserved apology to be published in two national dailies and the institution of a system by the FRSC to ensure that ensures all monies, charges, fines and dues payable to it should go into the TSA. His petition was dated February 12 2016.
Should the FRSC fail to meet the demands, warned Mr. Yusuf, he would instruct his lawyers to commence legal action against it and Nobipet Oil Limited. This, he said, would include dragging the FRSC and its ally before the security agencies.
The FRSC, however, ignored his demands. On August 17, Mr. Yusuf petitioned the EFCC, stating his experience and saying he suspected that the FRSC must be doing what it did to him to countless motorists, probably across the country. The lawyer said he was not bothered about the amount he paid, but was uncomfortable with the fact that he was made to pay what should have gone to the Federal Government to a private company. He wanted the EFCC to investigate if the Federal Government was aware of the Nobipet Oil Limited Account with Zenith Bank, if the Federal Government approved the operation of the account, if there is a Memorandum of Understanding with the company for the rendering of towing services and if the FRSC renders accounts of monies collected through the company to the government.
Mr. Yusuf also wanted the EFCC to find out the owners of the company, signatories to its account and how long it has been in operation. The lawyer also wanted the EFCC to find out why motorists should be ones paying Nobipet Oil Limited for towing vehicles since they have no business with the company. The EFCC did nothing, forcing Mr. Yusuf to write a reminder on September 19, 2016. That also went unattended.
The evident disinterest of the EFCC moved him to petition the PACAC. In the petition, dated October 20 2016, Mr. Yusuf urged the PACAC to prevail on the EFCC to act on his petition. That appeared to have worked, as he was invited on November 4 2016 to the EFCC office at 30, Harper Crescent, Wuse Zone 7, Abuja. The invitation was via a phone call from one Mohammed with telephone No: 08036365051. Mr. Yusuf was asked to make statements and to formally adopt his petitions. That, however, was as good as it got.
“About a month later, I called the said Mohammed on his telephone to inquire about the stage of my case with the EFCC and I was worried when he told me among other things that the EFCC was still trying to link the FRSC with the said private account and that the EFCC is also trying to be careful in its dealings with the FRSC being a Federal Government Agency. That statement from Mohammed did not go down well with me. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) can assist in any further investigation by producing the manifest of my conversations with Mohammed sometime in December 2016 (from telephone No: 07061388076 to 08036365051),” he told SaharaReporters.
Desperate for redress and keen to save other motorists from having the same experience, he told Mohammed that he had further evidence to link the FRSC with the said private Account and was willing to furnish the EFCC with such.
“I indeed furnished further documentary evidence to the EFCC on the said day after talking to the Mohammed and handed them over to one Sharu with telephone number 08034516071, whom I was told was the head of the team handling my case,” stated Mr. Yusuf.
The feedback from Sharu drained the lawyer’s confidence in the willingness of the EFCC to initiate action on his petition.
“Sharu told me in his office at No. 30 Harper Crescent, Wuse Zone 7, Abuja that ‘Presidential Directives are not laws, therefore, the FRSC is not bound to comply with same’. I managed to put up a smiling face in his office on that day and we parted by exchanging telephone numbers. One of the documentary evidence I submitted to the EFCC was a letter written by the FRSC to one Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative (ARDI) wherein the FRSC agreed having dealings with Nobipet Oil Limited and the other evidence is an Attendance Sheet containing the names, designation and telephone numbers of officers of FRSC, including myself and my lawyer, who attended a meeting summoned by the FRSC in respect of this case at its National Headquarters at No. 4, Maputo Street, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja in a bid to ‘settle me’ to keep quiet,” narrated Mr. Yusuf.
On December 16, 2016, the PACAC responded to his letter but ignored the issues raised. The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption told him that there was a three-party meeting with him FRSC and a non-governmental organization he had earlier petitioned. As such, the PACAC said since the matter was already before a court, Mr. Yusuf should await the outcome of the determination of the matter.
Three days later, he replied the PACAC and provided more detailed explanations to the petition before the EFCC and the civil case he instituted against the FRSC before Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court No. 2, Abuja.
Also on December 5, 2016, he petitioned the ICPC on the same subject. He received an acknowledgment of the receipt of his petition via a letter dated January 5, 2017.
“The said acknowledgment was the only letter I received from ICPC till this moment,” he said.
Two weeks after ICPC’s acknowledgment, he received a response from the PACAC to his letter dated December 19, 2016. The PACAC was somewhat was evasive, stating: “The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) furnished the Committee with documents, which shows that they acted in line with government policies.”
Mr. Yusuf, being the petitioner, had expected that the PACAC would furnish him with the documents it claimed the FRSC provided but never did. He decided to head for the National Assembly, writing to the Speaker of House of Representatives. His petition, dated January 17, 2017, was referred to the Committee on Public Petitions, which invited him and the FRSC to a hearing at Room 429, New Wing, House of Representatives.
“The Committee on Public Petitions sat only twice (February 28, 2017, and March 7, 2017) and adjourned for judgment/ruling/resolution on the matter. Till date, I have not heard anything from the Committee on Public Petitions on the outcome of my petition,” he stated. This provoked a reminder to the House Committee on Public Petitions, via a letter dated 11 April 2017. As with the other efforts, no response came.
Mr. Yusuf told SaharaReporters that he has gone through the whole gamut not because he likes writing petitions, but because nothing meaningful has happened in all the agencies he has approached. He wondered if the institutions are not all complicit in covering corruption.
The FRSC, Mr. Yusuf alleged, is a cesspit of corruption and is convinced that he is not the only victim of this insidious strain of fraud.