Vehicle inspection or revenue drive terrorism in Lagos?

All over the world, vehicle inspection is a procedure mandated by governments in many countries to ensure that vehicles conform to regulations governing safety, emissions and to make sure that all vehicles are roadworthy. In view of this, inspection can be required at various times for example, periodically or when renewing your vehicle licence. When a vehicle passes inspection, a certificate of road worthiness is issued or a “pass” sticker is placed on the vehicle. In many countries, proof of inspection is required before vehicle licence can be issued or renewed. Police can enforce the inspection law by checking whether a vehicle has been certified as road-worthy or not. However in Nigeria, especially in Lagos State, this simple duty of vehicle inspection has been so twisted that the agency concerned has almost forgotten the primary duty for which they are created and concentrate much more on what should ordinarily not concern them – which is enforcement. Why? Obviously, because the government which is supposed to help her citizens has given them revenue targets if not, their drive for money should not be as bad as it is.

I listened to the interview with the Vehicle Inspection Service boss in Lagos State, one Mr. Toriola, some few weeks ago on Traffic Radio and I was shocked by the passion he exhibited while discussing the e-billing system with the presenter, Debowale. Shocked because he was so passionate about modernising revenue collection without talking at all about how they would or have modernised vehicle inspection. Rather than focus on the way to properly check the health of vehicles before issuing road worthiness certificates which would have seriously reduced accidents on our roads, the VIS majors in checking for documents. With Toriola talking that way, it is not surprising that his boys are on the road daily behaving like road emperors terrorising the motoring public anyhow. Most of the officers on the road have little or no knowledge about how a vehicle functions. Some of them behave like touts without manners – all they are looking for is a missing or expired document and immediately arrest you or impound your vehicle. The way they jump and take over the steering of one’s vehicle, you will think you are watching a cowboy film. And they will issue the demand note or e-payment ticket with automatic alacrity as if people are loaded with cash in a recessive economy.

What baffles me sometimes is the overzealousness of some of the Lagos VIOs on the road. A road worthiness sticker with unexpired date issued from their office means nothing to them. I had an encounter with them recently at the Okota Junction towards Celestial bus stop, Isolo area of Lagos. I was stopped on my way to the hospital, sweating and coughing badly, the young officer didn’t mind my condition, he stopped and checked all my documents one after the other. In the meantime, I vomited beside the road; he didn’t even have a feel for me. One would have thought one of them would have assisted me in driving the car to the hospital due to my ill-health but safety is not their focus when on the road. It is e-payment! They returned all my documents and allowed me to go – but I did tell the head of the team about the bad habit of his boys.

Another thing is that the VIOs can check you three times in a day – Is there no way to address that? Why not put a pass sticker after checking so that the next team you meet on the road will not disturb you? I strongly believe that enforcement should not be done by the VIOs, they have become an embarrassment to the society and a disdain to the white uniform they put on.

In view of the fact that they jettisoned their primary function of vehicle wellness, the educative role they should be playing and the safety and wellness of the vehicle is almost unknown to them. For instance, in over 30 years of driving, the tyre pressure issue was brought to the limelight through Automedics Radio Programme. Most motorists depend on the illiterate tyre repairers called “vulcanisers” who put in pressure as much as 50 psi into tyres of ordinary cars. No VIO has ever checked that and yet they issue certificate of road worthiness. There are so many things they could do to help the motoring public but they leave the essentials and major on the non-essentials. Only God knows how many accidents they have caused with their uncontrollable bad habits.

Interestingly, the revenue target can still be met without the VIOs becoming ‘terrorists’ to the motoring public. All they need to do is to modernise and build more facilities to do proper vehicle inspection and reorganise the certificate issuance by giving private motorists six monthly road worthiness certificate and commercial vehicles four monthly road worthiness certificate. If they concentrate on the essentials of their work, most of the dilapidated vehicles on our roads will not be there, the road hagglers in their employment will be relieved of their jobs, and the accidents on our roads will be reduced. However, if this continues, there could be a negative reaction.

Adebola Adekoya, Lagos. [email protected] 08072561590

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