Curbing VIS men’s excesses
Their job is to coordinate motor vehicle administration, which includes checking for road worthiness and certification of drivers. But in many cases, Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) officials over reach themselves. Reports abound on how they extort motorists in the guise of doing their job. ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE and TOBA AGBOOLA report.
The men in white and black uniform, who, daily ply the roads in yellow Zebra colour-painted vehicles should naturally be motorists’ friends; but are they? From Lagos to Ibadan, Kwara, Kaduna andAbuja, or through the labyrinth of states in the South from Abia to Rivers, the story seems the same: That of graft. And more graft.
According to motorists, some VIS officials find it convenient to enforce their mandate in breach – eager to do their job only if there is something in it for them.
The story was told of an online medium worker in Abuja, who some of these men tried to milk of cash over “expired” vehicle papers.
The man was heading to their office to have his papers renewed and had called an official in the VIO office in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to fast-track the process. As he turned into the street leading to the VIO office, he was flagged down by an official for a ride and once inside the car, upon hearing that the motorist was going to renew his document, he asked for the papers. Suspecting no foul play, the reporter gave him his papers, which were promptly impounded. The officer led the reporter to his boss, who was happy that another offender had been caught. In the words of the reporter, “they would have continued to make a fuss of the ‘arrest’ if not for the fact that my papers were not expired”. Realising their folly, after this was pointed out to them, they let him off the hook.
Many motorists claim that the Abuja Vehicle Inspection Service is a graft minting machine. “They (the VIOs) are everywhere and are more notorious than their Lagos counterparts”, an Abuja resident whose vehicle had thrice been impounded by the VIS said.
Many who found themselves in the same shoes have harrowing experiences to share. Such was the notoriety of the officers in Kaduna that Governor Nasir el-Rufai disbanded the unit last December.
The action was informed by the officials’ penchant for corrupt practices, indiscipline and lack of respect for the public, a statement by Samuel Aruwan, the governor’s spokesman said.
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode also last year, directed VIS officials to stop harassing or forcibly taking over citizens’ vehicles under the guise of impounding them.
Speaking at a meeting with officials of the agency, Ambode said: “I don’t like the practice where our VIS officers harass motorists and impound vehicles for days. Modern technology should be adopted in arresting road offenders and to ensure that the practice whereby vehicles are detained for long in the VIO yards are eliminated.”
Despite this charge however, motorists in Lagos continued to tell painful stories of their encounter with men of the VIS.
Take Thompson, who have had encounter with them twice in recent time. The first, he was held at Abule-Egba, for driving a vehicle with a cracked wind screen, while the second time, he was apprehended at Iponri for driving a car with an expired particulars.
He said: “On both occasions, particularly, the second, despite acknowledging that the vehicle papers expired just the precious day, I was given a N20,000 fine and even when I returned with the bank teller, they demanded for my tax clearance, a development that made me go to their office with the entire tax register for all members of staff of the company I worked for just to show that I pay tax regularly,” Thompson said.
This did not assuage the VIS officials, as they requested that I “must drop something for the weekend”, the man added.
In most instances, motorists have found themselves haggling over the fines levied on them for just any kind of road infraction.
The Road Traffic Act of January 1, 1949, which was available as the Road Traffic Act chapter 548 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (1990) gave birth to the VIO.
The establishment of the Directorate of Motor Vehicle Administration (formally known as VIO) in the Federal Capital and States of the federation was a product of the 1980 International Treaty on the Harmonisation of the Highways Legislations in the ECOWAS Sub-region signed by the Heads of State and Government, that approved the setting up of appropriate machinery in member-states to be responsible among other thing for: Registration of Vehicle, Issuance of Drivers Licence, Organising of technical inspection of Vehicle and compilation of statistics, movement of goods and passengers by roads.
Technically, the law empowers the VIS to be in charge of ensuring that a motorist does not evade all road taxes he is expected to pay as a citizen of the country.
The agency was established to provide oversight functions on road usage by motorists on all Nigerian roads with the view to ensuring decent and responsible usage to guarantee users’ safety.
However, like the Nigeria Police, the VIS officials have learnt to ambush motorists at bad spots on road stretches to stop suspects and contrive one or two infractions, knowing that “no vehicle plying the roads would be safe from all bookable offences,” with the aim of extorting money from offending motorists.
While the governments are struggling to come up with innovations to restore public confidence, the field officers simply water it down by their brazen acts of corruption and lack of professionalism.
The fear of the VIO at Oke-Odo/Ile-Epo/ Abule-Egba is the beginning of wisdom for motorists plying the axis.
A recent investigation showed that VIS officials on this axis despite the governor’s directive seem to have lost the sense of responsibility, dignity and integrity.
Motorists on the axis poured out their frustration on the activities of the VIOs to The Nation.
A commercial driver, Obioma Elendu, said he does not know what is wrong with the VIO that makes them stand in the way of the commercial drivers making a living.
He said the officials apprehend vehicles unnecessarily even when the vehicle papers are complete. He said they would always find a fault to have vehicles impounded.
According to him, about two weeks ago, he spent about N8,400 to bail his car because a passenger alighted from his vehicle. He said while he and other drivers alike were trying to make a living, they drive with fear because of the VIO’s excesses in maintaining law and order. He said if proper parks and bus stops were earmarked, it would make a difference. He said all commercial drivers hate the VIOs because of the various ways they embarrass them.
Kazeem Yusuf, an engineer- turned- commercial driver, said commercial drivers avoid the VIO like plague because despite their having all vehicle papers, ‘’they will still find a way of putting some blame on you and the least fine one could get is N6,000, while the highest fine could be up to N20, 000, which is more than what a commercial taxi operator makes a day’’.
He said things were hard enough in the country with a sky-rocketing unemployment rate and he would love to see a VIS that is people- friendly and less combative.
According to him, “Having to deal with VIO and road safety officers or task force officials, makes it more difficult to achieve that dream.”
He said the pressure by the VIO is getting too much. There are cases of drivers who got involved in accidents while trying to avoid being arrested by the VIO. He said government should reduce the level of stress put on taxi drivers.
He said as an operator, no one was sure what the rules and regulations say because by VIO standards, all commercial operators are always on the wrong and must be promptly arrested.
He pleaded with the government to intervene in the situation and save the sub sector from an imminent collapse.
“A lot of Nigerians are out there struggling, there are no jobs anywhere,” Kazeem said.
Mr Tunji Agboola, a private car owner, said the VIOs either in Lagos or elsewhere are out to frustrate motorists because it is obvious that they are after their own personal interests rather than following the ethics of their training.
Agboola, who in the past had been in the VIS net, said he was stopped by the VIO at Oke Odo/ Ile Epo axis, and was asked to produce his drivers’ licence. He said he could not produce it immediately because he had left it in his other car at home. He, therefore, asked them to give him 10 minutes to go home and provide it. Before he returned (in less than 10 minutes), they have impounded his vehicle and he was fined N60,000, a sum he considered outrageous.
He said: “They said I don’t have drivers’ licence, fire extinguisher and reflector. I was able to produce all these but they still fined me N60,000.
“Right there in their office, right before me, they were celebrating the day’s adventure with wine. This is very unfair,” he said.
But the VIO Director Mr HafizToriola denied such complicity. He said the agency is neither a foe nor an enemy of motorists in the state, adding that as the agency incharge of ensuring the road worthiness of all vehicles, his men would not rest until they have ensured that all road unworthy vehicles are pulled out of all roads in the state.
Toriola, who said the agency is now visible in all the 20 local governments, said motorists who have faults with their vehicles either electrical, or mechanical should endeavour to fix them before putting them on the road, or else they would be stopped and such vehicles impounded until they are repaired.
“We would never allow any motorist to make our roads unsafe in Lagos State. We have been empowered by the state government and more men have been added to ensure that we cover more grounds than we hitherto do in the attempt to ensure that roads are made safer for the commuting people of the state,” he said.
The VIS vs FRSC debate
The Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi recently stirred the hornet’s nest when he declared that VIOs are not permitted by law to inspect vehicles and drivers’ licences.
The National Chairman of the Directors/Chief Road Traffic Officers of the Federation Revd Bayo Otuyemi in a swift reaction, however, asserted that VIOs have the right to inspect vehicles and drivers’ licences.
He mentioned that the VIOs were sufficiently backed by law to inspect both private and commercial vehicles to, not only ascertain their road worthiness but to test their drivers’ competence among others. Otuyemi clarified that the function fell under residual matters and, as such, is not included in either the exclusive or the concurrent legislative list of the 1999 Constitution; implying that only the state Houses of Assembly can legislate on it.
- Senate Committee slashes price of number plate, driver’s license
The Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs has slashed the price of the new vehicle number plate and driver’s license to N8, 400 and N4, 000 respectively.
The reduction is reflected in the report which the committee submitted to the Senate after its two-day public hearing on the price of the new number plate and driver’s license that was fixed by the FRSC.
The committee, chaired by Dahiru Kuta of PDP-Niger State, also said that the suspension placed on the issuance of the new driver’s license and vehicle number plate has been lifted.
It, nonetheless, advised the FRSC to ensure strict compliance with the price review.
On February 29, the Senate at its plenary session considered the motion that the price of the new plate number inflicts hardship on Nigerian citizens. The Senate described the price as high and directed the FRSC to suspend the implementation forthwith.
In the report, the committee conceded that the new number plate and driver’s license is laudable but stressed the need to reduce the cost.
“The Committee recommends that motorcycle plate number and rider’s license should revert to the old rate of N1,500 and N750 respectively, as the majority of the motorcyclists are poor.
“Similarly, the sum of N8,400 is being recommended as the price of standard motor vehicle number plate instead of N15,000, while the price of the driver’s licence should be reduced from N6,000 to N4,000.’’
The committee, however, recommended that FRSC should extend the deadline given for the procurement of the new number plate and driver’s license by another six months.
“The committee notes that the FRSC has given a timeframe of September 2011 to August 2012 for motorists to renew their licenses and number plates. We ask that this date be extended from August 2012 to February 2013.’’
It urged the FRSC to embark on massive enlightenment campaigns to educate the public on the advantages and other security details of the new scheme.
The committee, however, called for the harmonization of some functions of the police, the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) and FRSC, adding that some overlaps existed in the activities of the three agencies.
It also directed the VIO to stop its E-coding scheme and the collection of N2,000 per vehicle.
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How To Verify Your Vehicle Number Plate
How To Verify Your Vehicle Number Plate
A survey has revealed that out of every 10 cars on the road especially those with Lagos and Abuja number plates, at least 4 are not genuine. It has been discovered that some people were producing fake and duplicate number plates and giving out to innocent Nigerians. You can check your own now to confirm the genuineness of your number plate
- Log on to www.nvisng.org/numberplateverification.aspx
- Input/supply your “New Number Plate” registration number in the space provided E.g. “ABC863AP
- Click on “Verify ” button
B. THROUGH SMS: Send the Number Plate in The following format ”verifyplateno the number plate” to 33324. For example “verifyplateno ABC123AA” to 33324
- There is no space between “verifyplateno”
- There is space between verifyplateno and the registration number
- There is no space between the number “ABC123AA”
- The check is for only New Number Plate
- If the message reads “This number plate has been produced by FRSC and assigned to Toyota highlander on 20/01/2015”. If your car is Toyota highlander, then it is genuine. But if your car is Toyota Camry and your verification shows the above message, the solution is to go and re-register your car afresh.
- If the message reads “This number plate has been produced by FRSC and assigned to Matrix however the vehicle is yet to be registered”. If your car is Matrix, then just go back to the person that registered your car and tell him/her to complete your registration.
- If the message reads “This plate number has been produced by FRSC but yet to be assign to any vehicle”. It means that they just gave you a number plate that is not even registered in their system. The solution is to go to FRSC to register your car and upload your information.
- If the message reads “An invalid/wrong number plate”. It means your vehicle number plate does not have any form of registration with the FRSC
Note: The verification is only apply to new number plates with formats ABC123AB not AB123 ABC