Despite official claims, motorists who refuse to patronise fronts, go through hell in obtaining their new driver’s licences and number plates
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Oct. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
TO Ikechukwu Ogana, a businessman, the process of changing number plates and the driver’s licence is easier said than done. Ogana has spent the last eight months waiting for his turn to undergo the biometric capturing of his biodata for his new driver’s licence. He said that he applied for the driver’s licence in March this year and the Federal Road Safety Commission said he should come back for the capturing in September. But when he went there last month, his name was not among those due for capturing. “We can’t continue like this in this country. How can you tell me to come for biometric capturing in seven months’ time and after waiting for all that long, you still postpone it to another one month? I don’t know the difference it will make if the FRSC captures someone immediately after payment. All these protocols are unnecessary. It’s just a way of making people to go through their agents,” he said.
Ogana is not alone in this predicament. Osita Okwudili, a businessman, has also spent weeks trying to revalidate his vehicle particulars, despite getting to the Vehicle Inspection Office, VIO, office early on several days. He said that he was yet to obtain the documents. “Each time I get here, I am told that they have not been provided with documents. This is all because I don’t want to go through a middleman but through the normal process by paying the official rate. This is an issue that should be of concern to not just vehicle owners but all Nigerians. This is a country where anything goes. Our federal lawmakers that initially kicked against it are all silent now. We have all been left to our fate,” he said.
Vehicle owners, commercial and private, have been complaining about the difficulty they experience in getting the new number plates and driver’s licence, as some of them accuse licensing officials of inflating the official cost, while those who insist on paying the official rates do not get it in time. Some applicants have also complained that the new number plates and the driver’s licence are not even readily available.
Realnews learnt from a source in the VIO that the delay often experienced in acquiring the number plates and the driver’s licence is attributed to intermittent breakdowns of FRSC plants which provide the data-capture facility for biometrics of applicants. This, he said, is why the directorate of road traffic services and the motor licensing office are unable to meet the ever-increasing requests for the number plates and national driver’s licence.
Osita Chidioka, Corps Marshal of FRSC, said why the registration can cost as much as N25, 000 or more is because registering a car includes other costs, not just for number plates. He explained that people just hold on to what they heard about number plates costing N10,000 or N15,000, but they forget that registering a car requires one having a road worthiness certificate, licensing fees and all other necessary documents. “So, if you put all that together, it takes you to about N25, 000 or N30, 000 in some states to register it or less depending on the state you registered it. So, there should be a distinction between the cost of a plate number and the cost of registering a car: These are two distinct things,” Chidioka said.
Speaking on the challenges encountered by applicants trying to acquire the new number plates and the drivers’ licence, Jonas Agwu, public education officer, FRSC, said that contrary to speculations about hitches arising from their end, the three plants established for the production of number plates in Abuja, Awka and Lagos were functioning well without any problem. He, however, admitted that there were initial technical challenges.
He said the agency was aware of complaints made in respect of issuance, adding that those that “relates to technical challenges,” among others, have already been addressed. He reiterated that the FRSC, as the agency that designed the enhanced number plates and new driver’s licence, was not responsible for the challenges, but had been trying to ensure that motorists got the worth of their money. Agwu also assured of FRSC commitment to ensure that the processes were fast tracked. “We try to ensure that the driver’s licence applicant is not delayed unnecessarily by ensuring that an applicant doesn’t go through rigours before getting his licence. We are working with various state governments who are partners and stakeholders,” he said.
Initially, following the criticism that trailed the creation of the enhanced vehicle number plates and drivers’ licence in 2011, the Senate ordered the FRSC to stop the issuance of new vehicle number plates as well as the new driver’s licence. The order followed the adoption of a motion on the new number plates and driver’s licence sponsored by Senator Dahiru Kuta of Niger State and 19 others. The senators described the initiative as illegal, noting that the commission was not established principally as a revenue generating agency for the states or the federal government. According to Senator Kuta, the new driver’s licence is now issued for N6, 000 as against the N3, 000 while the new number plates have suddenly jumped from N5, 000 to N15, 000.
Following the resolve, the FRSC ordered the stoppage of the issuance of the new number plates. Later, it was resolved in another motion that the committee on road safety should carry out an investigation into the introduction of the new number plates. The essence of the investigative hearing was to avail Nigerians and stakeholders the opportunity to air their views on the new number plates and for the FRSC to explain its importance and timing. According to reports from the presentations by some of the stakeholders at the public hearing, most people were in agreement with the FRSC on the new number plates, based on the perceived benefits inherent for individuals and the country as a whole.
After the public hearing, the Joint Tax Board, JTB, whose duty it is to fix the prices for the number plates and driver’s licence, said it had carried out a downward review of the prices and had pegged the official rate for the new standard motor vehicle number plate at N15,000, while replacement attracts N10,000. The new driver’s licence is to be obtained for N6, 000 while that of motorcycle operators is N3, 000. Articulated vehicles are expected to pay N20, 000, Out of Series, N40, 000, Fancy plates, N15, 000 and Dealer, N30, 000. But the reverse is the order of the day at the issuing centres as people are forced to cough out almost twice the official price.