Worries Over New Vehicle Plate Number
On September 2, President Goodluck Jonathan launched new vehicle number plate and driver’s license introduced by the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC at its headquarters, Abuja.The corps marshal and chief executive of FRSC, Mr. Osita Chidoka said the conditions for issuance of the new driver’s license was for applicants to pass a mandatory driving test to be conducted by the Directorate of Road Traffic Services, DRTS, otherwise known as VIO.He claimed that the mandatory driving test was necessary to restore the ‘integrity’ of the driver’s license.Chidoka said the issuance of driver’s license signifies a major milestone towards achieving the Accra Declaration of 50 percent reduction in road fatality by 2015 and the vision of making Nigeria one of the safest 20 nations by 2020.The corps marshal assured that the new number plate would enable the FRSC to enforce traffic rules, stressing that it would contain the owner’s particulars for easy identification. “Once you get a number plate, it should be able to tell you the person who registered the vehicle; where it was registered; where it was re-licensed; if it had been sold; the person who sold it and at what time it was sold.”He also disclosed that the upgraded licenses and number plate were now interlinked and would henceforth be connected to each individual to help the FRSC track all road offences and monitor the driving behaviour of all vehicle owners.During the launch, President Goodluck Jonathan said the new driver’s license and number plates were culmination of three years of hard work which started with the discussion he had with the Corps Marshal, Mr. Osita Chidoka in his office then as vice president on the need to improve the driver’s license for it to meet international standards.“It is in this regard that government was pleased that FRSC has delivered and promised to deliver to Nigerians an international driver’s license that would meet international standards.”The president stated that the new initiative is meant to alter the culture of recklessness displayed by drivers, their impunity and lack of consideration for other road users.Head of public enlightenment, FRSC, corps sector commander Nseobong Akpabio told Newsworld that the new number plate and driver’s license will go for N15,000 and N6,000 respectively. He said drivers had been given a 12-month deadline, to obtain the new driver’s license and number plate while the implementation starts right from the day of the launch.Akpabio revealed to Newsworld that the FRSC’s new national driver’s licensing scheme, NDLS, and national vehicle identification scheme, NVIS are now security documents.A Lagos-based lawyer, Jiti Ogunye has filed an action challenging the constitutionality and the legality of the plan by the FRSC.Ogunye claimed that the plan to generate biometrics identity data for purpose of issuance, and to re-design, reproduce and reissue vehicle licenses and vehicle number plates, which was purportedly approved by the joint tax board of the Federation and the National Economic Council of the Federation in December, 2010, were unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.He said the power granted the FRSC under the act violated the right of the states to produce driver’s license and vehicle number plate to generate revenue for themselves. “It is against the principle of federalism that underpins the relationship between the states and the central government in Nigeria. Apart from the issue of federalism, FRSC’s intention to redesign and reproduce driver’s license and vehicle plates all over the country, is subjecting Nigerians to a needless hardship. The costly number plate and license renewal exercise is goaded by selfish interests to generate revenue like other government agencies, and use or misuse same, without probity, and without recourse to appropriation, accountability through the National Assembly.”The corps sector commander, Nseobong Akpabio could not give any explanation to Newsworld on the court case hanging on the neck of the FRSC. He simply said he could not comment until he got information from the corps marshal.Meanwhile, the arguments on which organisation between the VIO and FRSC, should issue the new driver’s license and number plate has been sorted out.Information gathered revealed that the state governments, through its VIO offices, are empowered by law to issue the drivers’ license and number plates. Though the deputy director of the DRTS, Dr. Pam Jack said they had not been briefed about the new development but the corps marshal revealed that all the state governments remain the issuing authority of drivers’ license and plate numbers. He claimed that the FRSC did not issue drivers’ licence or number plates, but only produced for uniformity purpose.“What the government did some years back was to say, let’s have a standardisation of licences and plate numbers, so that we can have a national uniform licence scheme. “The national uniform licence scheme creates a national standard, so that FRSC will retain the back bone, the database of all drivers, and all vehicles, and all governments can access that information. The FRSC don’t issue driver’s licence, we are the printer and the keeper of database of the driver’s licence, and the plates number.”Analysts are however divided over the new driver’s licence and the number plate; while some are in support of it, others are against it.An activist, Isaac Chukwuma said the issuances of new driver’s license and number plate were too costly, hence subjecting Nigerians to untold hardship. He said the introduction would end up forcing people to spend money on what they had already.Dele Ademola, however, believes that the new driver’s licence will help to reduce accidents mostly caused by unqualified drivers. He also claimed that the new number plate would help checkmate the activities of those involved in illegal activities.The corps marshal disclosed that many drivers were not well trained, hence they don’t know the rule of the road. He claimed that weak enforcement was one major problem FRSC has been battling with. “Vehicle inspectors have abandoned their jobs, and many rickety vehicles are on the road. One other thing is weak infrastructure, the roads have gone bad, and there are no road signs, no road markings. It’s not bad road that causes the accident, it is bad use of the road that causes crashes.”Chidoka said with the new license, no individual can have two driver’s licenses at a time. He claimed that it would also help to checkmate the activities of suicide bombers.“In this era of car bombing, we have seen that a car is bombed, and we all don’t even know the owner of the vehicle, but with the system we are building now, with just a press of a button, you can easily know the owner of the vehicle, the colour, the chassis number and engine number, and even if the car has been transferred from one owner to another. “That is the reason for this upgrade, it is a major shift in the way we used to do things and it will help enforcement, help identification, and national security.”People are of the opinion that if the new driver’s license and the number plate will help in reducing accidents on the road and also help in tackling the activities of terrorists, it is a welcome development but the charge should be reduced to accommodate everybody, including the downtrodden in the society who are struggling to make ends meet.