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The FRSC new vehicle number plates and Nigerians

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Come end of this September, Nigerians will be forced to change their vehicle number plates to new ones. Failure to do this will be an offence punishable either by imprisonment, or fines, or the impounding of the said vehicle with payment of penalties.

Knowing Nigerians, the first challenge of the Federal Roads Safety Commission, FRSC, will be to find space to keep impounded vehicles, employ companies to administer release of vehicles after owners paid the penalties, etc.

This is big business for the FRSC and company. Their next challenge will be when best to attack offenders; naturally during work hours, and festivities; at such a time when they can inflict maximum pain on Nigerians of all professions.

They are used to it. They stop and arrest mostly during working hours in big cities and they show no respect for any profession. They delay and embarrass lawyers, journalists, doctors, engineers, you name it. I have witnessed this at Mile 2 area of Lagos. Only recently, I came to the aid of a young journalist as the officer protested a publication by his paper against the Commission.

One wonders what could be driving this law other than greed and lack of conscience in those who rule us. First, the new plate which contains no extra features than the old one, except the map of Nigeria, and reversal of the old numbers will come at a price of N35,000 per car, and here is the deal: Assuming we have 70 million registered vehicles in Nigeria, and we have more, we are looking at an income of over N2.45 trillion! Penalties will range from N10,000 to N15,000, another income of N525 billion assuming only 50 per cent of Nigerians will be able to get the new plates before October 1, 2013.

There will follow from our experience, the natural facilitation fee from agents of about N10,000 per vehicle impounded or to be registered under the rush, giving another cost of about N700 billion for the ‘boys’, the hangers on and well-connected persons, given our knack to benefit from the problems of each other in this country, and call it employment generation!

This is one law therefore, that will unleash expenditure of about N3.65 trillion upon car and vehicle owners of this country! Are they not smart? They will make another kill this time from new plates, and after a few years, another administration will do their own proposal to milk more from Nigerians.

They will also find fault with this design and production and ask us to pay for the new ones just like someone is now touting the idea of new National ID card for Nigerians. The rigmarole continues at the expense of Nigerians.

To some of our leaders, it is a luxury to own a car, and one must therefore pay through his nose to own and keep one. In many developing nations like Mexico and Brazil, it is no luxury to own a car, but not here.

The Nigerian vehicle owner buys his vehicle or car, gets a driving license, road worthiness, insurance, new number plate, tinted glass permit, fire extinguisher, and in some states like Lagos, the MOT Certificate, in order to be on the road. What does the vehicle owner get in return?

Is it the good roads, cheap and available fuel, good and cordial service from government authorities, road saftey? The answer is none of these. After we all voted this administration into Aso Rock, the first thing they did was to jack up fuel prices that caused us so much pains! That was January 2012. They want us to vote for them again to remain in power, while we pay trillions of naira just for number plates? They must have to do better.

The FRSC is responsible for enforcing safe driving habits and acceptable speed limits on our roads, but what do you get? You find their officers in traffic gridlock in Lagos, for example, during rush hour checking drivers for brakes and lights, driving license, vehicle particulars and fire extinguisher.

You leave them to the next corner to meet the Vehicle Inspection Officers,  VIOs, who flag you down to check the same things. On the high ways, you find FRSC officers standing at the centre of the road, signaling drivers to reduce speed. Why use their hands, where are speed radars which should detect speed of vehicles as it was in the days of Prof. Wole Soyinka?

Why do they continue to import vehicles without speed detection radars? What and how will change of new plates help reduce speed on the high ways? If the idea is to computerize vehicles registration for crime detection, prevention and other purposes, do we have to pay this much? Should we not be told without the deception with new number plates?

How did Lagos State government computerize vehicle registration and at what costs? It is obvious that the FRSC and their supporters just want to make money from this new plates project with nothing novel to offer vehicle owners. This, for sure, is one law that should be withdrawn completely as it offers nothing.

Nigerians need to take a second look at this new plate’s law and reject it or stop it for now, with the view to ascertaining the benefits to society and whether the cost justifies it.

The date for actual implementation should be shifted to 2016, during which period a proper look should be taken at this law and its implications for Nigerians. If the law must go on as planned, the FG should pay for the new plates of all civil servants, military and paramilitary personnel, lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses and small business owners.

Only politicians, whether appointed or elected office holders, and officers of the FRSC, should be made to pay for their new vehicle plates. This will make them serve the nation better, and connections will help connections better!

Mr.  CLEMENT UDEGBE, a lawyer, wrote from Lagos.

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