The Federal High Court in Lagos will on May 6 deliver judgment in a suit filed by the popular activist-lawyer Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) against Power, Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola (SAN) and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
Justice Muslim Hassan fixed the date after the parties adopted their written addresses.
Falana is praying the court to order the removal of tankers, trailers and other obstructions from the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. The road, he added, should be repaired after the removal of these encumbrances.
He is also seeking a declaration that “the parking of tankers and trailers on the overhead bridges in Lagos is illegal and unconstitutional”.
Such acts, Falana said, “constitute a threat to the fundamental right to life of the applicant and other motorists” as guaranteed under Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
Falana, a former Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) national president, sued the defendants over the deplorable condition of the road.
He is seeking a declaration that the obstructions and to repair and maintain the road is illegal and unconstitutional, as it constitutes a threat to his fundamental right to life.
The failure to make the road safe for motorists, he added, violates his and others’ right to freedom of movement guaranteed by Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution.
In a supporting affidavit, the SAN, who is ex-West African Bar Association (WABA) president, said many of the federal roads across the country were in bad shape, including the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
“I also know as a fact that the traffic situation on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway today is unbearable and a dreadful risk to the lives of the motorists plying the road,” he said.
The applicant said the road “has in recent times caused deaths through recurring accidents”.
According to him, commuters plying the road risk their lives due to the heavy-duty vehicles that are stranded on the road “following the level of dilapidation.
“Vehicular movement along the road has become a misadventure and a nightmare that the applicant often regrets venturing into each time he plies the road.
“Long before the bad and dilapidated state of the road, it used to be less than 30 minutes’ drive from Oshodi to Apapa, but now the travelling time exceeds one hour.”
Falana said last February, while travelling back to his Ikeja office after a prison visit, he almost had an accident while navigating through a big pothole on the road and almost hit an oncoming vehicle.
The applicant sought an order that the respondents should remove the obstructions, repair and maintain the road forthwith.
Falana urged the court to declare that he is entitled to his fundamental right to life guaranteed by the Constitution and the African Charter.
But, the minister denied Falana’s claims, saying the road “is under rehabilitation”. This, he said, was not the cause of the gridlock in the axis.
In an affidavit deposed to by a litigation assistant in the Ministry of Power, Works & Housing, Ayodele Otedola, the minister claimed that a suit filed by the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria “has since 2010…caused the slow progress of work to rehabilitate the road for efficient use of motorists.”
Falana’s claims, he said, were not true, adding that the Apapa gridlock “is always caused by tanker drivers who normally follow the route to the port for the purpose of loading and offloading their goods.”
Fashola said: “The failure of the first respondent to repair the road as alleged by the applicant has not in any way restricted or breached his freedom of movement.”
The minister said Falana’s life was not under threat; that failure to fix the road was due to “paucity of funds”, and that the rights sought to be enforced were not justiceable.
“The applicant has no locus standi to sue as he is not representing a class action and on whose behalf he is suing. He has not shown that he has suffered over and above other motorists and people that use the road,” Fashola said.
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