By Kate Henshaw
Since the closure of the 3rd Mainland Bridge for repair works, it has been hellish going back and forth the Mainland. I try to avoid unnecessary trips to the other side or reduce them to the barest minimum.
I weigh the importance of what I have to do over the bridge on a scale of preference as it always turns out to be a whole day’s trip. Some things however need to be done to stay on the right side of the law as I am a huge advocate of that. I can then have the moral justification to complain to my heart’s content should services go awry.
Last year, I was one of the many individuals inducted as a Celebrity Special Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps. The ceremony was held in the capital territory of Abuja and the Director, Corps Marshal Osita Chidoka performed this act and welcomed us into the organisation. We were given our reflective vest, cap and arm band and then saluted as we filed back to our seats.
The idea behind this innovation is to form a synergy between role models and their admirers to drive home the information the unit needs to disseminate to the public with regards to road safety in general.
The need for advocacy is quite strong. Be it in the schools, motor parks, hospitals, town hall meetings, etc. A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, this week and I also had an appointment at the FRSC to capture my image for the renewal of my driver’s license (yes,I was still on that journey if you read my article few weeks ago). This was great as I could then kill two birds with one stone.
I set out at a reasonable time for obvious reasons, namely to arrive on time but then one can never predict what lies ahead on our roads. It all seemed smooth till I got to Eko Bridge to connect to Western Avenue, from there we crawled at snail speed all the way to Fadeyi Bus stop and then it eased out a bit. I had decided to take the Ojodu-Berger Express so as to be on the right side of the road when I got closer to my destination.
As I descended the Berger junction of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, eight men jumped out and one had a wooden plank with nails attached, ostensibly to tear my tyres should I try to drive off.
No such thought even crossed my mind. With confidence, I reached into my glove compartment and produced a sheaf of licenses, papers and permits (I was in my ONGA branded jeep). One of the men had a crest fallen look on his face but then it brightened up almost immediately “Ah madam, get one paper wey nor dey here”.
I was shocked for a brief second and with anger asked which permit was absent,”na consolidated media permit, you go follow us to our office”. I let one of them in who then proceeded to tell me that he watched my films and even had one of my songs on his phone. I was not interested in chit chat so I ignored him while I took directions on where their office was located.
On getting closer to the area where this local government, Ifo, I think it was called, the streets were littered with men carrying planks filled with nails, few wore vests but apart from their presence there was really no way of telling who they worked for.
I got to the office and it looked nothing like a local government office. Few men and women were gathered underneath a tree doing nothing but chatting and eating. Their faces lit up at the prospect of naira in their hands because I knew that would be the end result.
I was showed the supposed permit and told it was a( 7 in 1 permit: 1)Board of Internal revenue loading and offloading permit 2)Bureau of transport road users tax 3)Ministry of commerce permit 4)Route permit/interstate/road tax warrant permit 5)Vehicle commodity emblem permit 6)heavy/light duty 7)Agric levy.
Fifteen thousand Naira less in my pocket later, consolidated emblem permit in hand for Ogun State, I drove out of there to my meeting at the FRSC. On second thoughts, I should have “kidnapped” the man who got in my car. How do I know the money will be accounted for?
What is the use of so many permits then if the one I had just obtained was a consolidated one? Do they even know the meaning of the word, consolidated? Here comes the clincher, since I did not obtain it at the beginning of the year, it would expire in December!
The mind boggles at the amount of ineptitude and thievery in our local government areas. We complain to the Governor for so many things (I, inclusive) but what really is the function of the local government chairmen and who are they accountable to? My view is simply that of touts working for a kingpin who is faceless till election time, who then gets allocation for doing bugger all!
It is all well and good to pass laws but shouldn’t law makers be transparent in their dealings? A friend questioned why I let one of those men into my car, my reply was “I needed to see where all these led”. Beware, members of the public driving round in branded vehicles, we are moving targets to be regularly fleeced by these touts. The good news however is that, I left the FRSC with my temporary driver’s license.