• Top corps officers arrested
From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), is empowered by Part 15 of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 and National Road Traffic Regulation 2012 to auction impounded vehicle if the driver or owner of such vehicle failed to reclaim the vehicle within six months.
The sub-regulation 182 of the traffic regulations, entitled: Failure to Reclaim Vehicles, prescribes penalty for the driver or owner of an impounded vehicle, who failed to reclaim such vehicle within six months of the date of its detention.
“The corps or any appropriate authority may apply to the High Court for an order of forfeiture of the vehicle to the corps or any other appropriate authority, which may thereafter dispose off the vehicle by public auction and deposit the proceeds of the sale in the government treasury,” the sub-regulation read in part.
However, an alleged scandal is currently trailing the recent auction of 17 vehicles by the Oyo State Sector Command of the FRSC under the leadership of the former sector commander. The investigation of the case led FRSC to refer the matter to the police as a result of its alleged criminal nature.
Daily Sun gathered that no fewer than 13 officials of FRSC that have one or two things to do with the auction exercise were arrested, detained and interrogated by the police over the controversies surrounding one of the 17 auctioned vehicles.
Investigation revealed that the vehicle that caused the problem is a truck owned by one of Alhaji Aliko Dangote. The truck was said to have been involved in a road crash and kept in the custody of the state command of FRSC for safekeeping.
Mr. Yusuff Salami, who was the immediate past state sector commander had on April 18, 2017, wrote to the Controller, Federal Ministry of Works, Oyo State:
“Pursuant to the Federal High Court Suit No. FHC/IB/CS/48/2017 for the forfeiture and public auctioning of the vehicles (motorcycles and tricycles inclusive) on there herewith attached list, we hereby request you assistance to conduct a valuation on the vehicles (motorcycles and tricycles inclusive) in the attached list to enable the auctioneer conduct effective and efficient public auctioning.”
Six days later, the controller replied through one A.B. Hussaini, Head of Mechanic Section: “I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated April 13, 2017, in respect of the above subject. Please, find the inspection and evaluation reports of the vehicles and motorcycles as requested in your letter.”
On April 12, 2017, Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel of the Federal High Court, Ibadan, ruled that “all that overstayed impounded vehicles, motorcyles and tricycles from the various formations in annexture ‘A’ herewith attached is hereby forfeited to the applicant on the ground of having overstayed and remain unclaimed beyond the statutory period of six months in the custody of the applicant.
“That under the constitution of the applicant’s sector legal officer that the forfeited vehicles, motorcyles and tricycles is hereby ordered to be sold by public auction and proceed after the deduction of all expenses incurred be paid into the government treasury.”
It was gathered that a Sino Truck with registration number DAL 714 XA, reportedly owned by Dangote Group was categorised as accidented vehicle and booked in April 2016.
The legal unit of FRSC is saddled with the responsibility of recommending the impounded vehicles that should be auctioned. In the instant case, the unit reportedly listed the 17 vehicles for auctioning and the proposal was approved by the leadership of the sector command before getting a valid court order for the auction exercise.
Mr. Ademola Adegboyega, registered by FRSC as an auctioneer, was arrested by the police to explain what he knew about the auction. The outcome of his interrogation led to the invitation by police of some top officials of the commission in the state.
Sources told Daily Sun that the truck owned by Dangote Group supposed not to be auctioned in the first place because it was not impounded for committing any traffic offence. It was kept in the custody of FRSC it was involved in an accident.
But trouble started when Dangote Group wrote the national headquarters of FRSC in Abuja, requesting for the release of the truck. The company offered to pay demurrage on the number of days the truck spent in the commission’s custody.
The headquarters contacted Oyo State Sector Command to begin the process of releasing the truck to Dangote Group, only to discover that the truck had been auctioned.
The auctioneer was contacted to return the truck. When he did not return the truck within the specified period, the headquarters of the commission involved the police to help in unravelling the stories behind the auction, and retrieve the truck.
The truck was allegedly auctioned for N400,000, and resold for N7millions, which made it purportedly difficult for the auctioneer to return the truck. Some officials of the commission in the state were also accused of sharing from the proceeds of the sales of the truck. The auctioneer was said to have paid N450,000 to the coffers of the Federal Government.
Few days after the auctioneer was arrested by the police, a legal practitioner, Mr. Dapo Ogunwusi, petitioned the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, over the arrest and detention of the auctioneer. He sent copies of the petition to Vice PresidentYemi Osinbajo; Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and Corps Marshal of FRSC, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi.
According to Ogunwusi, the auctioneer was given 17 impounded and abandoned vehicles for auction by the Oyo State Sector Command of FRSC, adding that due process was followed as purportedly evidenced by compilation by the FRSC sector command, and the vehicles were evaluated by the Federal Ministry of Works.
He stated that valid order of court governing the entire process was obtained by his client, notice of the auction was published in a newspaper as required by the law, and the auction was carried out publicly and the items eventually vested in the winners.
He alleged that the FRSC “later started to put pressure on my client through threats and intimidation to return one of the vehicles allegedly belonging to the Dangote Group.
“I attended personally a meeting with the sector commander, Oyo State in Ibadan on Monday June 20, 2017, where it was concluded that since the auctioneer did not run foul of any law or regulation, he could only be persuaded to assist in the recovery of the truck.
“Two days later, the Oyo State Police Command arrested my client and detained him allegedly for stealing a truck from the FRSC. The police intimidated him to disclose the whereabouts of a truck, which has been disposed legally according to the law and established regulations of the FRSC.”
He explained that after the Ministry of Works must have valued any vehicle listed for auctioning, it is the duty of the auctioneer to ensure that the specific amount on each vehicle enters the government coffers. He held that it is not a crime for whoever that buys the vehicle to resell such vehicle for higher price.
Ogunwusi told Daily Sun: “The question is whether the Dangote truck was in the FRSC premises for safe keeping and some people colluded together to sell it off. The issue of collusion is a different subject entirely and I do not want to address it at this level.
“But what I know is that there are institutional frameworks for treating such vehicles. There is a provision of the law when a vehicle has stayed for certain number of months, the FRSC has the authority to proceed with the necessary processes of impounding and auctioning.
“The question now is was there compliance with those procedures? Was the vehicle listed appropriately? Was it sent for a court order? Was it brought to the attention of Federal Ministry of Works?
“I learnt in my own process of private investigation that the Dangote Group was aware at a stage and made some efforts, but was half-hearted, maybe because they were so sure that whatever happened, they would still get their truck at the end of the day. If a vehicle was involved in an accident, where should it be? Is it not with the police? So, you can fill in the blank yourself.”
Investigation further revealed that Dangote Group was not aware that the Sino truck was with the FRSC in Oyo State until after the auctioning exercise. Some personnel of the commission were said to have got angry that the “gains” from the auction did not get to them, hence they purportedly reported the auctioning of the Dangote truck to the headquarters of FRSC in Abuja.
As gathered, the truck had been retrieved and returned to Dangote Group. But the jobs of all the FRSC officials involved in the auctioning exercise were allegedly on the line. The police investigation revealed that the auctioneer purportedly gave the FRSC personnel some amount of money few days after the auctioning exercise.
The Corps Public Education Officer, Mr. Bisi Kazeem, in a text message to Daily Sun said the Corps Marshal, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, received the petition on a case of an auctioned vehicle:
“Since a criminal issue was raised, the case was referred to the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State. I think it will be unfair to react to a case under investigation by the police. You can direct your enquiries to the police which is the statutory agency to investigate such cases.”
Efforts to get further comment from Kazeem did not yield positive result at the time of filing this report as he promised in a text message: “I will get back,” to the reporter. Thereafter, several calls made to his mobile phone were not picked.
When contacted, the police Public Relations Officer for Oyo State command, Mr. Adekunle Ajisebutu, simply said the case was still under investigation, and he would rather not comment on it until the conclusion of investigation.
Group Head, Corporate Communications, Dangote Group, Anthony Chiejina, was contacted on the development. He requested for the registration number of the truck in question so that he could react appropriately. When the registration number was eventually sent to him via a text message, he could no longer be reached on his mobile phone.