By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Unlike what obtained in the recent past, the Oshodi headquarters of the Lagos State Drivers Institute, LASDRI, is presently a beehive of activities.
One of the five centres in the state designated as a training institute for drivers, is now on a daily basis besieged by intending commercial vehicle drivers for accreditation in accordance with the state Road Traffic Law 2012 and approved state policy on public transportation.
When Vanguard Metro, VM, visited the centre, it emerged that among those who have been accredited were those between 60 and 70 years of age as well as a number of university and polytechnic graduates who are into commercial transportation business.
This current rush for accreditation has been traced to the decision of the state government to enforce the law, which officials say, is aimed at repositioning the state for efficient and sustainable public transport management system as well as further ensuring safety of road users and transport operators.
The documentation exercise commenced on November 2013, but the process, indeed the compliance level, was considered rather slow despite efforts by government to adequately inform and enlighten stakeholders on the importance and benefits of the policy.
According to Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa, records of commercial passenger vehicle licensing scheme showed that out of the estimated 80,0000 commercial passenger vehicles and drivers in the state, only 24,257 vehicles and 28,902 drivers had been registered as at June. Also, only 7.637 taxis complied with the documentation of commercial vehicles.
Opeifa added that on the issue of commercial bus e-routing scheme: “We have completed the allocation of routes to the 11.000 mini buses that have registered. We currently have 7, 637 numbers of taxi registered.”
He added that so far, only 944 commercial mass transit buses, 13,839 commercial buses; 7, 092 commercial taxis; 2,194 commercial kabu-kabu; 221 car hire vehicles and 2,169 tricycles, totalling 26,459, have so far been registered with more than an estimated 30,000 operators yet to comply.
Opeifa informed that government had due to pleas from the leaders of transport unions, extended the commencement of the enforcement date on many occasions since the initial December 1, 2013. “In spite of the extension, government is unimpressed and disappointed with the low level of compliance which of course has slowed down the needed reform in the public transport sector. Hence, the full enforcement must commence immediately and ready to implement the policy to the letter having waited for another six months.”
LASDRI update on exercise
The Chief Executive Officer, CEO, LASDRI, Mr. Ayodeji Oyedokun, while speaking to VM on the accreditation exercise, said the turn out since the announcement of the enforcement has been massive and the institute is coping with the large numbers so far.
He said: “The enforcement started in January, 2014. And since then, the number of drivers and owners who have come for the recertification has been increasing monthly. At the moment in Oshodi, we are attending to 200 drivers and conductors daily. We have partitioned the process to ensure that it is seamless. We have about two batches daily. While some are in the classroom, others are doing their test and biometric capturing.
But one thing that is very interesting at the moment is that drivers and owners now understand the importance of this training and retraining the state government is doing. Few days ago, the leaders of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, were busy visiting different parks to ensure that their members, that is drivers, have gone for the training and retraining exercise. It has been on the increase and this has made us busy here daily.
“The essence of this exercise is to help the state government to know the population of the drivers and conductors in the state. If the state government doesn’t know the number of drivers and conductors, the state government cannot be able to plan for them. In Nigeria, it is only when there is enforcement that people come out to partake in any exercise. Right now, the enforcement is ongoing and the institution will not stop from training and retraining of the drivers and recertification of drivers and conductors in the state.”
Commenting on the allegation of officials turning back intending members from registering for the compulsory retraining, Ayodeji stated: “That is based on misinformation. Those that were turned back did not have drivers’ licenses; they have not paid the mandatory N1, 000 to the bank. And if one is yet to pay the mandatory N1, 000 to the bank, there is no way the officials will attend to such driver.
“Within the last three months, we have captured 30,000 drivers and on average, we capture about 10, 000 monthly. And that isn’t our capacity as we can go beyond that. In fact, 70 percent of the capturing was done by Oshodi centre alone. If we have that in other centres, the number would have increased. The accreditation is once. Accreditation is not a yearly activity but training is yearly.”
NURTW urges compliance
Meantime, the Lagos State chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede, has urged commercial drivers to comply with the state government directive on vehicle accreditation.
In addition, he has directed all branch chairmen not to allow drivers who refuse to comply with the directive to load passengers from their garages henceforth.
He explained that he was giving the directive as his last warning because some members were not just willing to comply.