Recently, a claim making rounds on the Nigerian Twitter space claims that the Nigerian police force has announced the clamp down on tinted glasses and covered number plates.
In reaction, some Twitter users argued against the claim, largely implying that the police did not announce such and have little or no power to carry it out.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mariam Yusuf, told Dubawa the police will commence enforcement of the order, especially in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In a statement she released on Friday, 30th April, the Police PRO announced that the Joint Security Team has launched an operation to clampdown on the use of unauthorised covered number plates and tinted vehicles. She added that the policy became essential, following security threat analysis conducted by the joint team.
The PRO further announced that “The team, therefore, wishes to warn residents using unauthorised covered number plates and tinted vehicles within the FCT to desist, as violators will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly.” Though findings have confirmed the efficacy of the claim, what does the law say about the use of tinted glasses? Who may use it? And does the constitution back the police action against the use of tinted glasses?
The law and the use of tinted glasses
The then military President of Nigeria; General Ibrahim B. Babangida, promulgated on the 8th of February 1991 a decree forbidding the use of cars with tinted glasses. The decree was initiated with one sole aim, to protect the Nigerian society from insecurity. The decree, Known as Motor Vehicles (Prohibition of Tinted Glass) Act, 1991 was made up of only six (6) sections. Since the enactment of the law, there has not been any serious enforcement, until in 2016, when the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar, announced his readiness to do so, as well as the recent announcement by the police to enforce it.
The Motor Vehicles (Prohibition of Tinted Glass) Decree
The Section 1 Subsection 1 of Motor Vehicles (Prohibition Of Tinted Glass) Act, 1991 instructs that “No Person in Nigeria is permitted to cause ANY Glass fitted on a motor vehicle to be tinted, shaded, coloured lightly or thickly, darkened or treated in any other way to the extent that the persons or objects in the vehicle are obscured, invisible and not seen with the naked eyes.”
The prohibition above simply implies that no person (human being or juristic being, companies, and incorporated trustees) may place, exhibit, install, attach, use, or put on a motor vehicle any glass that will conceal the contents of such a vehicle.
The Law’s exceptions and exemptions
However, like most other laws, Section 1 Subsection 1 Of Motor Vehicles (Prohibition Of Tinted Glass) Act, 1991 outlined exceptions and exemptions to certain circumstances/cases where a person may be permitted to use a tinted glass fitted on his motor vehicle with the authorization of the appropriate authority. Such cases/circumstances are submitted in Section 1 Subsection 2 Of Motor Vehicles (Prohibition Of Tinted Glass) Act, 1991 the basis of “health” or “security”.
The act does not exempt any person, office, class, profession and group; rather it exempts certain circumstances/cases that a person and office can find himself in. Therefore, an exemption is handed out to a person only due to a challenging health or security risk.
Hence, any person seeking permission from the appropriate authority to use a tinted glass must provide verifiable health or security reasons, to avoid abuse. According to Section 2, Subsection 3, Paragraph (A) Of Motor Vehicles (Prohibition Of Tinted Glass) Act, 1991 the proper authority to confer permission to any person in Nigeria to use tinted glass on his vehicle is the Inspector General of Police or any person or authority that the Inspector General of Police delegates such powers to.
Even more, Barrister Onyekachi Umah, a Legal Awareness Expert and the founder of “Learn Nigerian Laws‘ further explained that “there are health conditions that make its patient allergic to sun and sun rays, hence people having such medical conditions need to own and use motor vehicles with tinted glasses. Having a medical report or recommendation to make use of tinted glasses is not sufficient rather a written permission from the Inspector General of Police premised on such.”
He added, “Let me also note that exemptions/permissions are not tied to vehicles rather to permitted persons. Hence permission is not transferable; one cannot purchase a car with tinted glass used by a person with permission and expect to use that same permission issued to the former owner. Having in mind the narrow tracks of this law, I am wondering on whose instance an ambulance will be allowed to have tinted glasses.” The Barrister explained.
Penalty for breach of the Law
Section 4 Subsection (1) Motor Vehicles (Prohibition Of Tinted Glass) Act, 1991 stipulated that any person who commits an offence under the Act “shall on conviction be liable to a fine of N2000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both such fine and imprisonment”. However, Barrister Umah explained that “It is the discretion of the court to dish out both or either sanctions. Where a company or any juristic being is found guilty, the court will lift the veil of incorporation and directly deal and sanction the directors, managers, proprietors, owners, servants and officers of the company.”
He added that, “the value of Two Thousand Naira (N2000) and even a six (6) months imprisonment in present day Nigeria, having in mind possible unimaginable security breach a tinted glass may cause cannot be said to be a sufficient deterrence or punitive measure. I pray that the National Assembly reviews this part of the law to the reality of today.”
It is true that the police will commence a clampdown of motorists with tinted glasses. Nonetheless, it is also valid to note that the act is backed by law and punishable under Section 4 Subsection (1) Motor Vehicles (Prohibition Of Tinted Glass) Act, 1991.