Despite the parlous state of a great number of Nigerian roads, motorists worry about having to pay for road worthiness tests amid concerns about roads that are far from being vehicleworthy. In this piece, LADESOPE LADELOKUN, writes on the frustration and agonies of Nigerian road users
Looking morose with hands akimbo as he paced up and down at his mechanic’s workshop, worry was plastered all over him.
Though it was another time for his bimonthly ritual of coughing out over N100,000 to fix the road-induced damage to his Sport Utility Vehicle(SUV),his lean bank account balance had left him joyless after his heavy financial contribution to save his ailing mother from the jaws of death.
But, like many motorists that shared their experiences with Sunday Telegraph, Adebisi holds the view that it is cruel for government agencies to demand road worthiness certificate for roads that are far from being vehicleworthy, arguing that it amounted to putting the cart before the horse. “It makes sense to inspect vehicles. Some would not bother to keep their vehicles in good shape until they break down.
And that is not only risky to them; it could harm fellow road users. But if we are paying for road worthiness test, we should also be able to enjoy good roads. That is the least they can do for us. Look, every two months, I spend over N100,000 on repairs. If you are saying my car should be road worthy, it is only fair for our roads to be vehicle-worthy.
The roads are the major reason many vehicles are not road worthy. How long should we continue to pay for the irresponsibility of government? They are collecting money from us. No benefit for us. They should at least make the roads motorable,” he argued.
For many, driving on Nigerian roads is beyond a just nightmare. It is, for them, another means of courting death certificates. With horrendous tales of humongous sums funneled into vehicle maintenance, avoidable deaths and traffic jams occasioned by what is deemed the parlous state of Nigerian roads, endless wailings, Sunday Telegraph observed, continue to be the lot of road users. In spite of mounting concerns about roads said not to be vehicle-worthy, the demand for road worthiness certificates from road users, is, to many scandalous.
Following a motion by the Senator representing the Cross River South Senatorial District, Gershom Bassey, in 2021, the Senate had called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on federal roads, harping on the need by the Ministry of Finance to release adequate funds to the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) for emergency repairs.
According to Bassey, from 2016 to 2020, the total sum released to FERMA by the Federal Government for road rehabilitation and maintenance was just about 17 per cent of the required sum.
The lawmaker said the deplorable state of federal roads in Nigeria had become a national embarrassment, as scores of “innocent people are kidnapped by bandits, robbed, mutilated and killed daily in avoidable accidents on account of bad federal roads”.
From Lagos State to Ogun State, Abia to Bayelsa, plying bad roads daily, is, for motorists, tantamount to planning to work to swell the bank accounts of spare parts dealers, who harvest gains from their pains.
“I pity what Nigerians are passing through this time” -Lawmaker
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Federal Road Maintenance Agency, Femi Bamisile, had in 2021 bemoaned the N460billion budgeted for construction and maintenance of federal roads in 2021 Appropriation Act, describing the N30billionn allocated to FERMA out of the budgetary provision to Works Ministry as grossly inadequate.
Addressing some angry commuters, who got stranded on the Igede-Aramoko -Efon Road after a bus belonging to Etie Okwe Transport Company had got stuck at a bad portion of the road, obstructing free flow of vehicles along that route for over 24 hours, Bamisile said he had met with the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, several times on the terrible conditions of the federal roads in Ekiti State and what Nigerians are passing through.
According to him, he had earlier seen about 1,000 trucks along Ado- Akure road stranded because of bad road. “I pity what Nigerians are passing through this time,” he said. “This situation is unfortunate and we have to find solutions to it.
We leant that a bridge got cut off at Jebba in Kwara State and these heavy trucks from the North and South now find Ekiti as the most convenient place to ply and that had further caused serious damage to both federal and state roads. “I have moved round Ekiti and what I saw were disturbing.
The bridge at Jebba had collapsed and made those going to the East, Central, far North, West and South-South of the country to be taking Ekiti route,” he added.
Countries with ‘best roads in Africa
Despite the sobriquet attached to Nigeria as the giant of Africa, the country failed to grab a place in the first 10 spots in Africa, going by Global Economy analysis of the roads in Africa.
Of 141 countries being analysed by Global Economy, Namibia emerged first in Africa with the average value points being 5.24. With the latest 2019 being 5.3 points, the country emerged 22nd in world ranking. Meanwhile, between 2006 to 2019, the average value point for Egypt was 3.47 points.
The highest points stood at 5.1 points in 2019, making it second in Africa and 29th in world ranking. With the latest 2019 value standing at 4.8 points, keeping it at 39th position in world ranking, Rwanda came third in Africa among the countries analysed.
The average value points from 2010 to 2019 stood at 4.76. Also, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Kenya Senegal, Tanzania and Algeria occupied the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th spots respectively.
Why a new method of issuing road worthiness certificate is necessary
Speaking on a radio programme on why the Vehicle Inspection Service opted for a new method of issuing road worthiness certificate, Director, Vehicle Inspection Service in Lagos State, Engr. Akin-George Fashola, explained that the old format of expecting the vehicle owners to bring their automobiles forward for inspection within 30 days would no longer be sustainable as most people do not bring their vehicles for the said inspection once the certificate is issued.
Fashola further stated that the referral note issued to motorists was not an automatic clearance, adding that it was just for a grace period covering 30 days in which they expect them to have checked and fixed the vehicle. He added that the Vehicle Inspection Service was building its capacity to accommodate more vehicles through the 27 fullyequipped centres with 30 more underway to cover up the 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas. He said: “You can go to any centre within the length and breadth of the state.
Even if you do your first inspection on the Mainlan and you had to do your second inspection on the Island, you have no problem because they are all connected up.’’
He also listed the locations of the existing 28 Computerised Vehicle Inspection Service centres to include Ayobo, Oko-Oba, PWD, Lagos Island, Agric-Ishawo, Owode-Onirin, Bolade-Oshodi, Oke- Odo, Epe, Ojodu, Gbagada, Coker-Aguda, Yaba and Ajah. Others centres are Cele, Ibeju-Lekki, Odogunyan, Oko-Afo, Badagry, Ojota, Agbowa, Alausa, Anthony, Suru-Alaba, Omorege-Alaba, LASU, UNILAG, and a Mobile Centre.
According to the Lagos State Government, the new rule was made to help curb to the barest minimum the accident rate which had spiked in recent times, dismissing allegations that the newly introduced ‘no-vehicle inspection, no road-worthiness’ policy is an exercise targeted at generating revenue for the state government.
After Appeal Court ruling, it’s now unlawful for VIOs to stop drivers —NBA
In what appears to be an affirmation of the judgment of the High Court in Ughelli area of Delta State, the Asaba Division of the Court of Appeal had ruled that payment of levy and issuance of Road Worthiness Certificate to private vehicles was illegal. Delivering his judgement in appeal NO: CA/B/333/2017, Justice Joseph Ekanem had stated that he found no merit in the appeal and therefore affirmed the decision of the trial court.
Meanwhile, the National Welfare Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olukunle Edun, had said there was no law authorising VIOs to be on the roads to do their business, stating that they’re not security men. According to him, it is an infringement on the constitutional rights to liberty of movement for Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIOs, to stop drivers of both commercial and private vehicles because of vehicle particulars.
Edun, who instituted and won the landmark cases against VIOs at the High Court and Appeal Court, was quoted by a national newspaper (not Sunday Telegraph) as saying that it was also hazardous for members of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, to be competing with the Nigerian Police Force on the road in the alleged extortion of members of the public.
He added: “Both the High Court of Delta State and the Court of Appeal were also emphatic that VIOs have no right to stop any vehicle (including commercial vehicles) on the roads, as doing so amounts to infraction of the driver’s constitutional right to freedom of movement. “There is no law that authorises VIOs to be on the roads to do their business.
They are not security men. Do we now say that every enforcing department of government must be on the roads to do their jobs? “Their works are to be done at their offices or workshops when vehicles are brought to them for inspection. The VIOs now spend most of their work time on the roads, setting up road blocks and constituting nuisance.
The regularity of VIOs on public roads is illegal and any person who is stopped by them just for the purpose of asking for any documentation has the right to seek redress in court. “I recall that when the Court of Appeal and the High Court passed the concurring judgments, the NBA branches in Delta State obtained copies of the judgments and gave copies to the lawyers in their branches.
The Midwest Bar Forum did same thing. The reason why there is law is to enable us conduct our affairs within known and accepted boundaries, and to also curtail the excesses of government and its officials, so that they don’t trample on the rights of Nigerians. “The issue of private vehicles not legally bound to possess roadworthiness certificate has been settled in the concurring decisions of the High Court of Delta State and the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Governor of Delta State & Ors. V. Olukunle Edun is novel and landmark. “The decision has been widely reported. The Court of Appeal clearly stated that private vehicles are not expressly listed amongst the vehicles that must possess road worthiness certificates.
The court interpreted the provisions of the Road Traffic Law of Delta State, which is im pari materia with that of most of the states in Nigeria. “The office of the Attorney General of Delta State also advised the VIO units to comply with the judgment. Radio stations in Warri and Ughelli publicized it. The judgment is on the internet. This is why currently, the government or any of its departments in Delta State cannot prosecute any person purportedly on the ground of non-possession of road-worthiness certificates for their vehicles.
“Motorists that are being harassed by the VIOs may be ignorant of the decisions of the courts and should seek legal advice from their lawyers. It is sad that some of the VIOs are on the roads only to extort money from motorists.
I have had cause to meet with the officer in charge of the Warri zone and he confirmed that the VIOs stopping private vehicles and extorting them are on illegal mission. I make bold to say that they have no legal authority or business being on the road except where it is an accident scene.
“Impunity amongst government officials is rampant. Most of the VIO personnel are not even competent and know nothing about traffic rules. Just like I advised the FRSC, whose personnel are now competing with the Police in the extortion of members of the public, it is an unsafe act for both the FRSC and VIO personnel to be on a public road and convert the roads to business centres.
If truly they have been doing their jobs effectively, we would not be seeing rickety vehicles on our roads but they extort them and let them go. To check the excesses of the VIOs will require a collective effort of all. VIO personnel are a menace on our roads.”
‘It’s a scam altogether’
Narrating his experience to Sunday Telegraph, a Lagos-based business man, Tade Fawole, had, apart from lamenting what he called the deplorable state of Nigerian roads, revealed how he was made to pay questionable charges. “When I was driving this morning, a VIO stopped me. They saw that my vehicle licence on my screen had expired.
They saw June. I opened my drawer and gave them the renewed lincence. And they asked me why didn’t I paste it on my screen. I said I didn’t want to deface my screen. I renewed my vehicle licence a day before the expiry date. If I hadn’t renewed it, they would have billed me. But where are the roads? How motorable are they? We are just pay for nothing. They checked the car and told me my vehicle was okay. They stuck an item into the exhaust.
They swung it left and right. I ended up paying N16,000. They gave me Insurance Company name that doesn’t exist and they collected N5,500. That’s what we face. It’s a scam altogether.” For private school teacher, Charles Ogunrinde, it is worrying to see a great number of commercial vehicles that, according to him, can never pass road worthiness test on Nigerian roads, wondering why relevant state agents look away.
“There’s discrimination against private vehicle owners. They don’t stop commercial vehicles because they ‘settle’ them ahead. You see a great number of them without indicator lights, side mirrors, et al. But no one arrests them. Even federal road safety agents. And the risk is higher with commercial vehicles. A commercial vehicle conveys 14 to 18 passengers.
Some of the passengers also have more dependants. So, if accident happens, it has a multiplier effect down that line. But the risk associated with my vehicle is largely restricted to my family.
There was a time I drew attention of a VIO to a commercial bus that would never pass a road worthiness test. The officer said it was his prerogative to choose who to inspect. I told him it was my preprogative to question his activities and that I could accuse him of being compromised.”
How mechanics, spare parts dealers gain from our pains
Mrs Mojirade Olatunde lives in the Bayeku area of Ikorodu in Lagos. But, driving on the road in that part of Lagos is for her a hellish experience. She told Sunday Telegraph how her spare parts dealer makes smiles to the bank owing the deplorable state of roads in that part of Lagos.
According to her, the situation gets worse when it rains.
“Here in Bayeku, it is like vehicle owners just make their money to grow the businesses of mechanics, spare parts dealers. I’ve learnt to use commercial buses more. That’s the way I’ve learnt to cope.” Meanwhile, a resident in the Adesan, Mowe area of Obafemi Owode Area of Ogun State, Akeem Akibu, said it was sad that part of Ogun State was yet to feel the presence of the government. “The effects of bad roads can be devastating. There’s no month I don’t visit the mechanic.
This month alone, I’ve spent N70,000 on vehicle repairs. I change ball joints and other parts. Only yesterday, I gave my mechanic N45,000 to fix my bus after a large pool of stagnant water damaged it.”
We are on top of the situation -Lagos
In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Transport, Hon. Toyin Fayinka, said the Lagos State government will continue to prioritse infrastructural development, saying the government would not relent in its ongoing efforts to make roads in need of repairs motorable.
“The Lagos State Government is passionate about developing infrastructure. We also appeal to citizens not to dump refuse indiscriminately. Road construction will continue to be a priority of the Lagos State Government. We are repairing roads all the time and we are expending so much on infrastructure.
Thank you so much for your concern. We will continue to be up and doing. We appeal to Lagosians to be patient with us. We are on top of the situation.”
EndSARS brought back rickety vehicles – FRSC Sector Commander
Contrary to the argument in some quarters that the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, deliberately allows rickety commercial vehicles to operate on Nigerian roads because the commission has been allegedly compromised, its Lagos State Sector Commander, Ogungbemide Olusegun, explained that, “Last year, I arrested about 57,000 vehicles, and more than 27,000 vehicles arrested were commercial.
So, the impression that I’ve not been arresting commercial vehicles is not outrightly true. And when such vehicles are arrested, we make sure they are put to proper shape and minimum safety standard before they are released. You will agree with me that the traffic volume in Lagos is huge and we cannot arrest everybody at the same time and members of the public owe us a responsibility of getting across to us so that we can respond promptly.
“Apart from arresting offenders, we do public enlightenment. We combine these things with traffic management at the same time. What we do more is intelligence patrol activity. We combine so many things at the same time.
Like I said earlier, arrests are being made on a daily basis. You know immediately after EndSARS, all these vehicles that had been kept off the road came back. You will agree with me that prior to EndSARS, we had little or none of these rickety vehicles around.”
On people having to drive on roads that are not vehicle-worthy despite being expected to drive in road-worthy vehicles, he said: “Will you ply the roads with bad vehicles because the roads are not in perfect shape? You’ll agree with me that even now, you see projects going on all over the place.
We’ve had this decadence for so many years and the current government is trying to fix it. While it is being fixed, it is our responsibility to also play our own part by fixing our own vehicles too.”