By Kate Henshaw
I was going through the contents of my purse, checking to throw away all unnecessary paper and junk that had accumulated there. Women have a way of storing all sorts in their handbags, and sometimes we forget where we put stuff when we change bags.
I found that my driver’s license was going to expire soon and so I set out to find out about the renewal. My driver said to me, “Madam, I get person wey fit do am for you”.
I was doubtful as the information I heard a while back was that, one had to do a test, fill forms, your image captured and sent off to a central database and then you would go and pick it up from the Federal Road Safety Commission after a few weeks, so I told him not to worry that I did not want to be caught with a license that was fake. He insisted that it was kosher but I decided not to go with his suggestion.
With the tussle between the National Assembly and the FRSC raging on the ‘new license plates’; the ongoing battle between Lagos State and the FRSC on who would produce driver’s license, I did think that renewal would be a problem. Little did I know that I would embark on a journey that would leave me angry, depressed and totally confused.
As I drove out of my estate, I wondered where to begin. I had no idea where the licensing office was. I remembered someone I knew who worked with LASTMA and gave him a call. He told me to go to their office on Adeola Odeku to pick up a form, fill it and then go to the FRSC office at Ogudu to capture my image and get my information on their database.
This was turning out to be a whole day’s event; with the closure of the 3rd Mainland Bridge, I did not see myself making it back on time to do other things I had planned for the day. So I drove to Adeola Odeku and located the office, right after Idejo Street. Seized cars, trucks and tow trucks littered the entrance to the office. There was a barricade manned by some guy not in a uniform. I pulled over and told him my mission and also that I needed to park. He bellowed back “Oya Madam, put your yansh here”.
He had somehow found me a space. I walked into a place that had two containers, one on each side, few people milling around and a few in uniform too. I was then told that “no be here you go do am o, you go go Sura”. I told the guy that I did not have an idea where that was, then the guy who had given me a parking space “volunteered” to take me there. We proceeded from there through to Ahmadu Bello way and across the bridge. Along the way, a LASTMA official jumped bikes and joined my escort to also lead the way.
We continued through Tafawa Balewa Sq, St Nicholas, down the side of City Hall on Hospital road then into Oshodi street. At the junction of Oshodi Street, Freeman Street into Tap Street and then finally arrived at Saviour Street, and there was a gate to a decrepit and run down junk yard that housed the offices of the VIO, LASTMA and some other office.
Parking was a nightmare but with the ‘help’ of the area boys, I managed to squeeze my car somewhere. I walked to the gate and enquired where to go, “jus dey waka go straight to the back back “was the response. Let me describe where I walked through; vehicles in their numbers that had been impounded, tow trucks and abandoned vehicles were all over the place.
The officials sat around in their numbers chatting away and paid me no attention. The place was filthy, it stank and there was muddy, foul water all over. It seemed I had walked a bit so I asked again and I was told to continue past a shed which looked like it would fall on you and there I found at the back a block with three offices with dirty and haphazard sign posts.
I walked into one of the offices and saw few people seated in front of a television and around. I spoke to another LASTMA officer who said “go to sura “(I thought I was in Sura). “Go to the market side and fill form, capture your picture and then come back here, you will do test”. I asked him if my car could make it there and he answered “ehn you can park and take okada there”! That sealed it for me.
I was done! I said a weak thank you and proceeded to walk back out, by then foot slipped into the slimy muddy pool that filled the compound. I felt like crying.
I bought a sachet of pure water, rinsed my foot and got into my car. I paid N3000 for my parking to the boys, my “escort” received N1500 and I was led back to the main road for N500. N5000 naira out of pocket expenses and I had still not started the process of renewing my driver’s license.
It is so hard to do the right thing. The whole process is frustrating to say the least. Why does the renewal of a common driver’s license have to be a herculean task and a jungle expedition? Take an eye test, for a renewal? My eye sight is just fine thank you very much.