By Francis Ewherido
After a slow start, the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has gained traction. So much is being done, including rehabilitation of roads across Lagos, although there is still so much to do. But there is a trend, which is causing some vehicle owners a lot of heartaches and the governor needs to look into it. It is the punishment of Innocent vehicle owners caused by the use of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Cameras on Lagos roads. Once the cameras capture the plate number of a vehicle and send it to a database, other information on the vehicle, including the insurance status of the vehicle, are displayed.
Now, there is a database called the Nigerian Insurance Industry Database (NIID). It contains the list of all vehicles in Nigeria with genuine motor insurance policies. If your vehicle is not on NIID, chances are your motor insurance is fake, but not necessarily so. Usually, the insurance company that issued your motor insurance policy is supposed to uphold it on the database. So it is possible to have a genuine motor insurance policy which is yet to be uploaded on NIID.
Unfortunately, once Lagos State Government (LASG) officials—Motor Vehicle Administration Agency (MVAA) and Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS), especially—check the NIID and your vehicle details are not there, you are termed to be driving without a valid insurance policy and slammed with an N20,000 fine. This is very wrong. What the Lagos State Government officials should do is this: if the alleged offender claims to have valid motor insurance at the time the camera captured the number plate, he should produce the certificate of motor insurance which is the evidence of the possession of valid insurance. The officials can then contact the insurance company that issued the insurance policy. If the insurance is confirmed it to be genuine, the policyholder should be set free.
I am aware that the LASG, through its relevant agencies, has an agreement with the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA), the umbrella body of all licensed insurance companies, that the details of vehicles insured by NIA member companies should be uploaded on the NIID within a specified number of days. After the grace period, such insured vehicles, not uploaded on the platform, which are captured by the ANPR, will be penalised and the owner fined. This is a miscarriage of justice. The absence of a vehicle details on NIID platform is not sufficient grounds to penalise the owner of genuine motor insurance for the absence of an insurance policy. Rather it is the NIA member that failed to upload the policy that should be penalised by the LASG.
The Motor Vehicles (Third Party) Insurance Act governs the use of vehicles on public roads and makes it an offence for anybody to use a motor vehicle on the road without having in place the minimum Motor (Third Party) Insurance to cover the motorist against liabilities arising from third-party bodily injuries or death. The Insurance Act of 2003 extended the cover to take care of liabilities arising from damage to third party property to the tune of one million nairas. The insurance Act also makes it clear that only insurance companies registered in Nigeria and licensed by the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) can insure vehicles that ply Nigerian roads. Once any of these licensed insurance companies issue a motor insurance policy, the absence of the vehicle particulars on the NIID cannot void it. This is where agencies of the Lagos State government erred. The Road Traffic Act and the Insurance Act of 2003 are federal laws and supersede the Transport Sector Reform Act these LASG agencies are relying on to impose their fine. It is just that many vehicle owners, with genuine motor insurance who have been affected, are too impatient with the slow judicial process and resort to paying fines instead of going to court. If they choose to go to court, they will win their cases.
The LASG needs to amend the enforcement and penalize only those with fake insurance papers, expired insurance and those without insurance at the time the ANPR camera captured the plate number of the vehicle. The law is supposed to protect those who are on the right side of the law, not punish them. Some of these vehicle owners, with valid motor insurance policies, being forced to pay N20,000 fine, only managed to do Motor (Third Party ) Insurance, which costs N5,000! If they had N20,000 to spare, they would probably have done Comprehensive Motor Insurance or other variants, which have more coverage than Motor (Third Party)Insurance.
Having said that, I must commend the LASG for the initiative to penalize vehicle owners without valid motor insurance, especially the minimum insurance to cover their liabilities to third parties. Many vehicle owners might not know, but your minimum Motor (Third Party) Insurance, which you purchased from a licensed insurance company directly or through a registered insurance broker, has many benefits attached. If you cause bodily injury to a third party while using your vehicle on a public road, the insurance company is liable to pay for the treatment of the third party. God forbid, but if you kill somebody while driving your vehicle on a public road, the insurance company is also liable to pay compensation to the deceased’s next of kin or family. Also if you damage someone’s car or property while driving your car on the road, the insurance will pay for the replacement or repairs to the tune of N1m. You enjoy a lot of benefits for spending just N5,000 on Motor (Third Party) Insurance cover.
You would have noticed that the Motor (Third Party) Insurance covers the policy holder’s liabilities to third parties only. If you want a cover that will take care of your car if damaged or stolen, you have to take comprehensive motor insurance or the limited Third Party, Fire and Theft Insurance. These days, we have enhanced the Third Party which makes provision for own damage but the compensation is lower than the value of the car
The unjust punishment of a few motorists notwithstanding, the Lagos State Government is doing a great job to bring some sanity to our roads. Currently, there are about 12 million vehicles on Nigerian roads with the bulk in Lagos. Only about 2.35m million vehicles have genuine insurance. The rest are either carrying fake motor insurance, expired insurance or no form of insurance. If you are in Lagos, do the needful before VIS or MVAA catches up with you. The fine is N20,000, but all you need to get the minimum Motor (Third Party) Insurance for private vehicles is N5,000! In truth, the Lagos State Government is actually doing defaulters favour because the Road Traffic Act specifies a jail term for defaulters! If you need the list of registered and licensed insurance brokers and insurance companies where you can get the genuine motor and other insurances, go to NAICOM’s website: https://www.naicom.gov.ng.