On January 8, 2023, I had my driver’s license seized by Road Safety Officials, and a ticket issued, for the third time in barely a year. I appear to have become a ‘regular customer’, or what else can I say? I will give a brief on the three (3) incidents, and following that, I will provide the summary of my experience and observations.
On this bright morning, I was driving to work with a colleague, who had asked to ride with me that day, at the end I was grateful I was not alone. It was as we descended the Falomo Bridge, on to Ozumba Mbadiwe Road, in Victoria Island – they make it a habit to be at that point during the morning rush hours, some evenings they move up, towards the Falomo Bridge, just as you approach from Adeola Hopewell. I was driving my ‘official car’, the guy flagged me, and I cleared off the road, and parked. He approached and asked for my driver’s license, I handed this to him, and then the particulars of the car. I gave everything to him, including MOT, insurance and of course the vehicle license, he held on to them and then said my colleague was riding without wearing his seatbelt. My colleague was in shock, the seatbelt indicator sound would have been beeping the whole time if I had been driving with my passenger not wearing his seat belt. When we pointed this out to him, he felt he needed to do more, and asked to see the trunk. When I opened the boot, he saw the spare tyre, jack, wheel spanner, fire extinguisher and suddenly, eureka! No Caution sign. I was going to be issued a ticket and my license withheld. It was my official car, so I guessed the Admin Officer would worry about that and so I took my ticket and drove off to the office, I was barely 5 minutes from my office.
The second Incident was in December 2022, I was headed to my daughter’s school for their annual Christmas Concert, I suddenly realized that traffic was not so tight and I was a bit ahead of schedule, so I made a detour, to try and get my car washed that morning. On getting to the carwash, I realized I was too early, the carwash was still closed; I decided to continue my journey to school. As I exited Dolphin Estate, on to Osborne, the Road Safety Official flagged me down, by the corner. The usual routine – driver’s license, vehicle particulars and when everything was intact, I was asked to open the trunk of the car. This time I was driving my personal car, everything seemed to be intact, until he picked up the fire extinguisher and without looking at it closely, he said it had expired. How do I tell an expired extinguisher, I wondered! Ticket issued, license seized, off I go. I continued my journey to enjoy the Christmas Concert.
Then today, I had to visit one of my God daughters, who recently lost her dad, in FESTAC, I had not been there in years, so I chose Sunday to have a quiet drive. I had completed the visit and was now heading back home; with the road works and all, one had to be careful to meander and avoid getting on the wrong lanes. Only to sight a Road Safety Officer ahead, and I was almost so certain I would get flagged down again (I will tell you why), and yes, I was flagged down. The usual, driver’s license and this time no need for the vehicle documents, he asked that I step on my brakes so he could be sure my rear lights worked. I did that and he walks back to me and says my vehicle license plates are worn out. Oga, how is that my problem? What am I to do about it? He says I should switch off my engine and come with him. Walks me over to their parked vehicle, where the ‘Boss’ is cozily sat, discusses a few things with him and hands him my driver’s license, and walks away. Then I ask the Boss, “what is this about, what do I need to do about the worn-out license plate”? He says he will issue me a ticket, I told him to go ahead. I stood in the sun, as he took his time to punch into the gadget he had, as he remained seated in the Car. He would later hand over the ticket and I walked to my car and drove off. As I drove all the way home from Mile 2, I counted endless number of vehicles (commercial and private), with worn out vehicle license plates.
I can actually get used to this; it does seem like there is a script. I will list below, a few things I have discovered:
- While the Road Safety Officers stand along the road, or sit in their cars, and watch badly battered commercial vehicles drive by, some driving against traffic, they prefer to look out for private vehicle owners to ‘attack’.
- They are also very quick to stop ladies driving alone, we have become an easy target; this is why I mentioned above, that as I approached the officer at Mile 2, I was so sure I would be stopped.
- When you are not cooperative to have a ‘discussion’ with them, they quickly threaten that you will be issued a ticket. I tell them, issue the ticket, I will go and pay.
- Why we think we should use our offices to bully others, is still unclear to me.
- After the Dolphin incident, I was referred to Sura to pay and collect my driver’s license, unfortunately after walking all the way there, I was again redirected to Ilubirin. At Ilubirin, the officer to receive the payment, claimed they had network issues, and directed me to a Business centre underneath the tree, across from his office, where I should go and make the payment and that it would come at a fee. I told him I could generate Remita payments myself and so would return the following day. I got home that night, initiated the payment and asked someone in my office to go pay and pick up my license. He went there and was again redirected to the Agent under the tree and he fell for the trick, so used the agent and made the payment for an additional sum – the exact thing I tried to avoid.
So, tell me, should vehicle owners be penalized for fading vehicle license plates? Who is responsible for manufacturing these license plates? Is anyone asking why the quality is so poor? There are older vehicles in Lagos, and across Nigeria with their license plates still neat and legible; it is obvious this and probably so many other batches are substandard.
I spent the rest of the afternoon after I got home, trying to find information about worn out license plates on the FRSC Website – so I am not saying there is no information, what I am saying is that I have not found any such information. Why does the FRSC not start with awareness for drivers, before they take to the streets/roads, issuing fines and penalties; I am starting to wonder if these Teams have daily targets they are meant to ‘return’, for being out.
So, who is attending to the commercial vehicles? The ones who carry and endanger more lives? After all, the goal is supposed to be Safety on the Roads!
When will we stop oppressing our fellow citizens, so that collectively we can focus the real issues?
Until I find money to pay the fine, apply for a new vehicle license plate (I have been informed it costs N35,000 to get a replacement), I may have to resort to alternative means of commute.
I will overcome!