A major burden placed on motorists is the seeming duplicity of checks by security agents. This has not only become a nuisance but a nightmare as many drivers are not even sure of what they might encounter when plying the roads. Almost at the same time, motorists driving on intrastate and interstate roads confront officers from the Nigeria Police Force, Federal Road Safety Commission, Vehicle Inspection Office, state road traffic agency, emission control agency, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigerian Army, and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, among others.
No doubt, the security agencies have different mandates. Some of these operational activities are overlapping but the main issue is that in discharging these responsibilities, they often put an unnecessary burden on the people and one wonders whether their presence is either to protect the people or to inflict pain on them in the name of providing security and ensuring safety. Just a few days ago, a taxi driver was flagged down by VIO personnel and asked to produce his car papers. He confidently released the documents not knowing that the certificate of roadworthiness had expired. He had assumed that the lifespan of the certificate, which he processed alongside the vehicle insurance, was for one year and not realising that it was actually for only six months.
For this, he was threatened that he would be sanctioned. Along the line, someone advised him to ‘settle’ the officer so as not to be delayed unnecessarily but he declined. He opted to be fined and pay the necessary and official fees. What drew my interest during the driver’s conversation with the officers was that they refused to be lenient with him that, he had thought that the document would expire after a year and not six months. During the argument, the VIO personnel told him that no amount of plea would make a difference because they were given specific targets on the number of erring drivers that must be booked for the day!
At another time, a road safety corps demanded relevant car papers from a taxi driver. Having been able to produce the necessary ones, still not satisfied, the officer requested evidence of installation of the speed-limiting device. Completely disenchanted, the driver sought to know when it became an issue to be enforced. This led to an altercation and at the end of the day; the driver had to part with some amount before he was left off the hook. The same scenario is played out with other law enforcement agents on our roads.
In the same vein, an old man was asked to show up for pensioners’ verification exercise in a nearby state. Not being too familiar with the roads, he innocently approached one of the traffic officers on the correct lane to ply, to avoid breaching rules. To his surprise, he was asked to take the inappropriate lane, only for another colleague of the officer, who misled him, to hotly pursue him and charge him for driving on the wrong lane. After appealing to him that it was another staff like him, wearing the same uniform with him that directed him to take the route, he denied knowing anyone like such and demanded bribe money or risk being arrested. In the end, the poor man was forced to give him money so as not to be delayed unnecessarily.
There are other examples that I have personally read, seen or heard about. It is the same problem everywhere. It’s always a case of exploitation, deceit, and high-handedness. Unfortunately, government authorities do not appear to be helping matters because little or no attention is paid to this plight by motorists. On several occasions, the police high command had announced that it has stopped roadblocks across the country. What happens is that immediately the directive is given, roadblocks disappear, only to reappear, again.
From the modus operandi of the various security personnel, not much is being achieved on the roads in the name of checking and demanding vehicle particulars. Many innocent motorists have been attacked and killed while resisting the illegality being committed by the security personnel. Without delay, the respective agencies should call their staff, to desist from punishing drivers unjustly. This operational mess makes drivers engage in sharp and corrupt practices to beat the security agents. Not only that, prices of goods and commodities become unnecessarily expensive because the fines and bribe monies paid by drivers are passed on to consumers.
The existing driver’s licence should be upgraded to have more security features such that many documents would not be demanded from motorists. It is rather unfortunate that the national identity card scheme has not been developed properly to serve multiple functions unlike what is obtainable in countries like South Africa, United Kingdom, and Canada, although, we have what it takes to have a better and functional system. What is needed is the sincerity of purpose and political will to make things work better not just about motoring, but in other facets of our national life.