Motorists groan under frustrating delays and processes of acquiring new biometric number plates for vehicles and driver’s licence
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Sep. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IN October 2011, when the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, announced the introduction of new biometric number plates and driver’s licence, many Nigerians saw it as a good initiative. The idea was well received by the public because the FRSC claimed it was adding some new features that would help government and security agents in solving the security problems in the country. After the scheme was launched by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, the FRSC commenced a pilot issuance of the new number plates and later announced that full implementation would commence in 2012.
Following the president’s endorsement, the Joint Tax Board immediately issued a notice to the general public on the development, with the argument that the new registration with the enhanced features, among others, would create a more secure and unique driver’s licence, motor vehicle registration and documentation process. The board then directed “All affected persons to change their driver’s licence and vehicle number plates on or before August 31, 2012.”
The JTB also announced that the cost of the new number plates would be N6,000 while that of motor cycle operators would be N3,000. For number plates, Standard Motor Vehicle, will cost N15,000; Articulated Vehicles, for N20,000; Out of Series, N40,000; Fancy, N15,000; and Dealer, N30,000. Soon after the price list was made public, there were floods of complaints especially about the standard vehicle number plate which was increased from N5, 000 to N15, 000. The complaints were also provoked by the August 31, 2012 deadline fixed for the acquisition of the new biometric number plates and driver’s licence.
Following the waves of complaints generated by the new scheme, the House of Representatives and the Senate were forced to look into the matter. The legislators ordered the FRSC to stay action on the implementation of the scheme and later advised that the deadline be extended. The FRSC agreed and the deadline was extended to September 30, 2013.
But as the deadline draws closer by the day, the complaints have not subsided. Motorists in Lagos, Abuja and other cities are facing many challenges in obtaining the new number plates and driver’s licence. There have been many complaints about the requirements for the online registration system, especially the data capturing part which can only be done at the Vehicle Inspection Office, VIO.
Oladimeji Adebowale, a banker in Abuja, told Realnews that he has been trying to revalidate his vehicle particulars for over a month without achieving much. He added that despite the fact that he had been to the VIO’s office for several times, there was no sign that he would get his particulars any time soon. “I go to their office twice or thrice in a week and nothing has been done. They keep telling me my papers are not ready. I wonder why they introduced a new scheme when they knew they were not ready for it”.
Sharing a similar experience, Gbenga Oke, a commercial bus driver, said that he had been striving to renew his driver’s licence for some months now. “I have done all the necessary things online but at the point of capturing, a lot of problems came up. For three days, I went to the VIO’s office as early as 6.00 a.m. I realised that they have only one or two machines to capture many applicants who are seeking to renew their vehicle papers. On the third day, they finally captured me around 2.00 p.m. because they said they were expecting confirmation and approval from their database, which didn’t come until about 1.00 p.m.”.
Almost two months after completing the registration procedures, Oke has still not been able to get his vehicle papers. To pacify him, the VIO officials issued him a temporary license which will expire at the end of August 2013. In spite of these complaints, the issuing authorities; the Federal Road Safety Corps’, FRSC, and the Vehicle Inspection Office, VIO, insist on the September deadline by which all motorists are expected to have acquired valid particulars. Some officials of the various authorities have assured that they would speed up the process to make it easier for the people.
Yusuf Jack, deputy director at the VIO office in Abuja, said that some of the difficulties being encountered in the issuance of the documents were beyond their control. He attributed the delays to some technical problems. “Sometimes, if there is no network the person, who is supposed to print something, would have to wait for the pin certifying payment to drop. If it doesn’t drop, he has to continue the next day because he has to be sure that the necessary things have been done. So, once we have such problems, there’s a backlog of work to do and it becomes a problem giving out particulars.”
Jack, however, stressed that for motorists whose particulars had not been renewed because of delays on the part of the VIO, they would be required to provide evidence to prove that they had already started the processes to avoid being arrested. “If you have some form of evidence like the teller which you used in making payment at the bank, everyone will know you’ve paid for processing the particulars. Even if the particulars have not been issued, the proof is good enough to tell any reasonable officer on the road that the person is saying the right thing.”
According to Jack, some of the challenges are also caused by the ignorance of motorists who do not know the functions of the VIO and the FRSC. He explained that while the VIO is responsible for registering vehicles, issuing particulars and driver’s licence, it is the duty of the FRSC to produce and issue number plates.
Speaking in the same vein, Jonas Agwu, FRSC public education officer, said the challenges of obtaining a driver’s license and number plate are not cumbersome if people go through the right channels. Agwu said, the online based registration process which has been criticised by many motorists actually makes things easier. “A lot of flexibility has been brought in, unlike what it was in the past when people used to go to the VIO for everything; now, a platform has been provided to make the process easier. You are even allowed to choose a centre, and they will give you a date when you will go for your physical capture.”
Like his counterpart at the VIO office, Agwu assured that the FRSC was doing everything possible to make the process of obtaining new vehicle particulars less cumbersome.
“We appreciate the worry of Nigerians and the problems which some of them have to go through in getting the particulars; we are really working to make their efforts less cumbersome. We just need the understanding of Nigerians that it will get better because there are no deliberate plans to frustrate them; we want Nigerians to be able to walk in there and pick up their licences with ease.” Despite the assurance, many road users are still worried that the September 30, deadline may not be realistic due to the many problems associated with vehicle registration.