BY HUGO ODIOGOR, KUNLE KALEJAYE, VERA ANYAGAFU
Introduction: With the October deadline on phasing out the old drivers licence and plate number for vehicles, agencies of government in Lagos State have found it lucrative to pounce on vehicles on the road to challenge owners or drivers of such cars to produce their driver’s licence.
The Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO, and Nigeria Police especially have in such circumstance declared as “fake”, drivers licences issued by FRSC causing their victims to part with huge sums of money. Vanguard Conference Hall has taken up the issue of Road Traffic Management and Law Enforcement on Lagos State roads. Exercpt:
MODERATOR: You are welcome to Vanguard Conference Hall, which is our public policy platform and interactive forum to engag on issues of public interest.
It is a platform we devote to interface with the public, let the people know what Vanguard is thinking, what the issues are and we also let the public know what we are doing.
Sir, you are welcome to this event.
We are really concerned about road traffic management in Lagos recently because there are a lot of agencies that we see on the road. We will still ask the management to give us the opportunity to bring you back to the table and discuss this issue with you.
We see lot of agencies and enforcement on the road. As at today, the man who was meant to represent road transport workers says he does not want to be trapped in the traffic because he was here two days ago and he did not find it funny.
So we want to start by saying, what does the VIO do in managing its own responsibilities?
Engr. Toriola:I want to firstly commend you for your effort in finding solution by giving us feedback. Whatever you are doing, you need people to give you feedback whether you are doing it well or not and the areas you need to improve on.
When you write and you criticise the government objectively, that will move the state forward. For us, it is a welcome development because we take feedback as a plus to us to improve on our services.
Recently, on August 2, 2012, the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, signed a new law in order to have sanity, safety, security and standards in Lagos metropolis. Our road needs to be safer while the commuters move in and out.
Before you can re-address this, the law also stated clearly the responsibilities of different agencies of government, which are the LASMA, Vehicle Inspection Service, VIS. Before now, we were called VIO, it was the law that changed our name to VIS, that is; Vehicle Inspection Service. LASMA still retains their own name.
The law at the same time specified the duties of each agency. LASMA is to manage traffic, VIS is to ensure that we have road worthy vehicles on the road. That is why you see our men doing periodic or daily check on our roads.
Secondly, we ensure that motorists obtain the necessary particulars. That is what we call road levies, which include the vehicle licence, the hackney permit, the road worthiness and to ensure that the driver is also competent. That is, they have a valid driving licence.
That is top on our list. From our studies, we have observed that most of the drivers that we have on the road do not have a genuine driver’s licence. What they do is that they give somebody money and photograph to do their driving licence for them.
You cannot get a driver’s licence by proxy; you have to be physically present in our office to do your test. That is biometrics where we would take all your data like the finger prints, eye test and others.
Also, we have what is called road worthiness. We are taking the responsibility to their door step, especially companies so that they can at least meet the minimum requirement.
People write about latching that we lash. Latching is not the key word. What you need to do is to hook it. It is when the system body is not effective that is when you lash it with a rope but the ideal thing to do is to hook it.
So, we take these campaigns to them and all these tank farms to ensure that their vehicles are road worthy and that they are maintained to the required standard. Like I have said, before issuing driving licence, we do testing. We are the middle men, it an arrangement where you have three agencies involved in one product and what is the product? Driver’s Licence.
In those days before the era of the former president, Babangida, it was a state affair. After the creation of FRSC, they said, ‘do your normal work, but you must go to the federal level where they will capture your data’, because they want to have biodata base of all intending drivers and drivers in the country.
The state MVAA, that is Motor Vehicle Association Agency are the ones that will sell the form to you or you will go to our website www.nigeriadriverlicence.org and apply online for your driver’s licence.
You can also verify online whether what we have is genuine or not. From there, you can fill the form and download online but you can come to our office. After concluding your payment, you will come to VIS for your test.
You have one very close to you here at Apapa where your will do the test to ensure that you are competent enough to handle the wheel. After you have finished with the VIS, they will now take you to the FRSC to do your biometric for you and capture you so that they can have your data.
When they are through, they will now give you a temporary driving licence. After 60 days, you will now come back to our office to get the product. FRSC only do the biometric alone, they produce for us. It is like you have a product, you give it to someone to produce for you. The signature on that driver’s licence shows the authority of the state government on that driver’s licence. I sign on behalf of the state government.
The state chief VIO in the country signs on behalf of their state government. FRSC produces for the state. It is in line with what I have said earlier that FRSC do the biometric and produce for the state and they return it to the state to give the applicant.
In line with the law, VIS is the issuer of driver’s licence and we also do what is called accident inspection. If your vehicle has an accident on the road, it is the duty of the police to determine the offender, who is at fault.
Our role is to determine the cause of the accident. Prior to the accident, was the vehicle road worthy? And before the vehicle goes back to the road, the police will have to call us to inspect the vehicle and confirm that the vehicle has been repaired before it is taken back to the road.
On the driving school issue, we certify them in conjunction with the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute. We have what is called LASDRI, if you want to go to a driving school, you must apply to the LagosState government, then LASDRI in collaboration with VIO will inspect the facility because we have a standard.
We have instructors, who will take you round the facility. LagosState has a certification school called LASDRI for professional drivers, those who earn a living from driving. If I drive myself without a driver, am a driver, but once you have a person earning living from driving like commercial bus drivers or your company bus driver, you must go to LASDRI and before they can go to LASDRI, they must have a driving licence. That is the pre-condition before they can go to LASDRI.
These are the summary of what we do. We have five LASDRI in LagosState. If you commit a traffic offence, you must go back to LASDRI for further training. The law specified that.
LASDRI has a law that says that before you drive as a professional driver, you must visit LASDRI yearly for further enlightenment or training. Apart from having a driver’s licence, you must visit LASDRI for training and everything. You must go there at least once a year for certification.
LASDRI was set up to change the orientation of drivers, to change the way they drive, having the right attitude. You know that we have a lot of drivers in Lagos Stae, but traffic management is dynamic, it is not static.
You talked about road worthiness, what would you think of the roads in Lagos?
Barrister Ndubisi:The problem that we have is enforcement of the law.
You see, I don’t know the difference between VIO and VIS. They stopped me somewhere to investigate my papers, but their primary duty is to look for vehicles that are not road worthy.
VIO, I don’t know if the law has empowered you to do what other government agencies are doing? In that case, there is duplication of roles. That is the problem with this our government. Some government agencies need to be scrapped because their functions are over lapping. The VIO does the same function that the VIS is doing and up till now, the government has not been able to do anything about it.
There are so many cars that don’t need to be on the road and nobody cares about that and it is constituting a big menace to road users, public health, and morality. But who has the function to checkmate all these? Is it VIO or VIS or whatever? They are not executing the law. Apart from some cars not having road worthiness, the roads that we are talking about are not car worthy and that is the function of the government. Government has failed; they have refused to attend to our local roads in LagosState.
Local government roads are in a very bad shape, if you go round, you will see what am talking about. The cars you buy today, tomorrow, it will be un-road worthy after one year because of the bad roads.
VIO and LASMA must ensure that the cars that are not road worthy should stay out of the roads and it is written in the traffic law, but nobody is applying that in LagosState and it has caused so many problems like traffic congestion to the point that you cannot come to the office with your car.
By the time you get to Mile 2, you see piles of cars. The point is that we have a problem and that problem is enforcement of our laws and there is no doubt about that.
The traffic law that was signed by the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, is a noble idea and it is what is obtainable in other countries like US and UK, but unfortunately, the enforcement and application is very wrong.
How do you enforce the law in a situation where someone is driving and eating? It is not an offence, but they have made it an offence in our law here. Sometimes, it is very ridiculous but I praise the government for doing that because it has raised our morality to some extent.
The same goes for receiving GSM calls while driving. You are not supposed to receive calls while driving and this has increased our level of awareness of public health and safety, but the enforcement is the issue and at the end of the day, it becomes a dead law.
I don’t know why the government wants to be making dead laws without enforcing them. If you truly want to build a great country, any law no matter how it is framed must be enforced to the letter.
Moderator: Unfortunately, for us, two key agencies that ought to be with us, the Police and LASMA one way or the other are not here with us. But each law you make profit the police whether you like it or not. If you say you want to enforce these laws, it becomes an avenue for the police to make money. If you ban the use of tricycle like LagosState has done, the police will not enforce it in a decent way. Like recently at Ikeja, in an attempt to apprehend a motorcycle, the police caused a very terrible accident and once that happened, the police left the scene.
In a civilised environment, if you park your vehicle where you are not meant to park, the police will ticket you, then you know what to do is to go and pay for it. Road Safety started in this country at a point where they were ticketing people. If you commit an offence in Lagos, they will ticket you to go and make payment in Maiduguri.
Engr. Toriola: Before you go further, I want to clear the difference between VIO and VIS. I want to tell you that it is the same VIO. The officers in line with the law are called VIO; that is the Vehicle Inspection Officers, while the department is now called Vehicle Inspection Service, VIS. They are the same, it is just that government changed their names.
The officers still remain Vehicle Inspection Officers, while the department is now called Vehicle Inspection Service, VIS, as against the VIU in those days that is the Vehicle Inspection Unit.
They are now a department under the Ministry of Transportation, but they are still the same agency.
I think I would just tell you the brief history of the VIO so that you will know where they originate from. VIO is as old as the Nigeria Police; they were in police before. The then IG in 1963 wrote a memo that the VIO should be moved from the police and let the police handle security issue while VIO takes care of road safety. The then Executive Council approved it.
We are talking about bad roads. Yes, there are bad roads, but what about the vehicles? Are they road worthy? What about the drivers? Let’s not forget that the drivers are very key. The driver will see that the roads are bad, he will see that the vehicle is faulty and he will put the vehicle on the road. We have seen that most of the fatal accidents that we have in Nigeria or even all over the world are caused by defective vehicles, and it is also caused by the drivers, as a result of BAD driving, but we will continue to educate our people.
VIO was moved from the police to the regions because we use regions in those days. When the states were created in the 70s, they moved the VIO to the states. I must also tell you that we know that enforcement is one of the major problems we have in this country; we need a lot of enlightenment. We have a slogan in our organisation that “Education without enforcement is Entertainment”. A situation where you keep telling people to do certain things without any enforcement, they keep looking at you.
This government has invested so much funds on road constructions, repairs and we have seen some of them. We are also part of the Ministry of Works because we have a committee on whatever we see on the road, we send our report. We have the Public Works Bureau that we call them Direct Labour and you must have seen some of them on the roads. We know that we have some roads that are bad, but we have to take them one at a time.
Mr. Omorege: Basically, when you talk about road maintenance, this government has not been forthcoming. Most of their road constructions are the ones that can provide revenue for them where they put up toll gates, where they can collect taxes from multinationals that are within the locality.
Where the generality of Nigerians live, which is the inter-lands, are left in total neglect.
Most people work on the Island, but we come from the Inter-lands to make a living, but going back home, is always a nightmare, which will take you about eight hours to get back home.
So, basically, in terms of road maintenance, Lagos hasn’t done anything because if you see the so-called roads that they talking about, they are roads that you don’t see anybody on during weekends because people stay at home. Monday to Friday are the days most people come from the inter-land work in the Island or main-land. The main-land has a lot of fine roads all tarred with street light, gardens and chairs along Marina and I don’t know who stays there.
The construction of those chairs would have been used to constructs a meter of road at Iyanu-Ejigbo or at Ikotun, or Ayobo and these are the places that if you measure the traffic of people that are living there (Inter-lands) and work in the Main-land, it is huge.
I think it is possible to say that you need to repairs those areas that it would be easy for the people living in those areas to come down to main-land and work. And that is the reason why most people don’t want to follow the law, because if you look at what it takes to drive in Lagos, you better go back to the inter-states and stay because the cost in terms of physical wear out, not on money, am talking about the individual driver because we all drive, you will know what it is to drive in Lagos.
By the time you get home you are already worn out, not because you don’t know how to drive but because of the roads. If it rains, you will not know where the pot-holes are. You don’t need to be an expert driver to spot pot-holes.
Basically when government does not appreciate what the mInajority of people are
In Lagos, a road that you pass through this morning would not be the same when you are passing through it in the evening.
Barrister Ndubisi Chijoke: Just to add to what you have just mentioned the better word to use is that this LagosState government has become too elitist. You will see a situation where the roads big men are using are better as opposed to the one the downtrodden are using, It is unfortunate!
Fashola in his first term concentrated in repairing all the roads mostly in Ikoyi, VI and Lekki, but come down to the main-land here you will find nothing. He said he was going to do that in his second term and now he has only two years to go and there is nothing. That is the issue, your colleague has said it correctly. Fashola has failed. The only place he has favoured the poor is this BRT buses.
He created something for them so that somebody can from Ikotun move down to VI and gets to work by 6am or 7am. Some of the lawyers in my chamber reside at Idimu but with the aid of BRT they are in the office by 6am or 7am, all by the grace of BRT, buses and I praise him for that but he should extend it to other areas because at the end of the day, it is this people that voted them into power not only the rich the majority are the poor.
So when it comes to road, he has succeeded in satisfying the rich. His government is becoming too elitist, things in Lagos has become too elitist that one has to think about what to do.He has good intentions on the road traffic law he signed because he want us to behave like the way other people are behaving in developed worlds but he has failed to understand the circumstance of our own terrain here.
How can you tell a poor man that has not been able to eat three square meal a day not to carry his Okada with a woman that is pregnant when the woman can pay him the money he needs to feed himself. It is unpracticable but he put it as a law that if you carry a pregnant woman in your bike or a 12 years person it is an offence. And talk about the enforcement, it is not there and some people have not challenged this in court.
Engr. Toriola: Let me come in here and start from the rare, having a pregnant woman on an Okada is not safe. What the law is trying to achieve and I have mentioned it several times is safety, security, standard and sanity and they are very important.
An okada is a two wheel vehicle even a small stone can cause an accident to it. Consider a pregnant woman cannot adjust within a few seconds when she is on an okada unlike someone that is not pregnant. A 12 year old child cannot react the way you will react when there is an emergency with an okada.
The law was meant to ensure safety to all those people you have just mentioned. Am not trying to defend government here and there are alternative. The BRT is meant to be used. The area that we ban Okada is on the high way, you have travelled abroad and you know that major roads are not meant for two wheel vehicles, we have the express and the high way and we have what is called congested roads and their speed varies.
Everything is about safety and what the government has done in the last eight years is a good idea. If you look at Ikorodu, The government is trying to expand the road to three lanes plus one BRT lane. We know it is an enormous task but we have to start from somewhere. Talking about people living in the Badagry axis you can see what is going on there even the Agor-Palace road, the government is trying to dualise the road there.
Lots of constructions are currently going on but they cannot be completed in a short years or month. It is a gradual process. We understand what you are going throug, but government is also listening to the cry of the people.
Moderator: one of the things that we seems to get from what is going on is this driver license.
Engr. Gboyega Toriola (Chief VIO)
Engr. A Adebosin (VIS) Barrister Ndubisi Chijioke
Victor Omoregie (Corporate Affairs Mgr.)
Hugo Odiogor (Foreign Affairs Editor)
Vera Anyagafu ( Consular/Immigration)
Kunle Kalejaye(Business Desk)
Bunmi Azeez( Photographer)