Lagos e-billing system: Enforcing compliance, boosting revenue

Dr. Dayo Mobereola

Dr. Dayo Mobereola

Since the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Transportation, recently announced it was commencing E-billing system that penalises motorists with expired or invalid documents and those without safety equipment in their vehicles, there have been reactions from Lagosians.

Any violation carries a fine of N20,000 . One of the issues central to the reactions is that the new billing system would help curb diversion by enforcement officers into their private pockets, revenue from the fines.The other was that the flat rate of N20,000 fine was just too high.

Though it acknowledged citizens’ outcry against the new billing system, the ministry said the system was not new or specific to it as it was the fines and fees segment of the Central Billing System that came into effect a few months back.

“The Electronic Billing System, an automation system, involves removal of hand written tickets and its replacement with an electronically generated fine ticket makes it less susceptible to human frailties.”

The ministry also stated that the introduction is being implemented by all the agencies of the state government including Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) and Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) in accordance with the provisions of the Lagos State Road Traffic Law 2012 Schedule I dealing with ‘Traffic Offences Penalties’.

“The fines range from N20, 000 to N250, 000 depending on the offence and the number of times such a person has been apprehended. “ We urge the general public to be obedient to the officials who are to see to management of traffic on the road as well as obey all regulations and rules as established by the Ministry in its quest for sanity on Lagos roads.”

The state government however said that the introduction of the regime of e-tickets is not punitive, as it prefers obedience to the law leading to sanity on the roads than all the financial resources that could accrue from the exercise.

“Road infraction fines are of general application and not specific to any group of motorists. The Ministry of Transportation and its agencies are determined to ensure compliance to the provisions of the State’s Road Traffic Law 2012 and will do so mindful of the rights of citizens.

“Part of the information being circulated includes fines due to re-certification of drivers by Lagos State Drivers Institute (LASDRI).
While the statement stipulates fines and what offences attract fines as if they are new, we will like to state that Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and Vehicle Inspection Services (VIS) will only continue to operate within the confines of the Traffic Law of 2012 and not on any new rules. It is our hope that people become conversant with the provisions of the law rather than be caught in the web of mitigating consequences of disobeying the law.”

A commercial driver, Seun Adisa, said though enforcing regulations that vehicles and drivers have the appropriate documents is in order, but when a motorist is unable to fulfill this and fined N20,000 for each offence, then government wants to punish the offenders, especially considering that the person not just pays the fine, but would also be required to get the appropriate documents before the vehicle is released.

“Does anybody like to drive rickety vehicles? It is when the resources are not available or daily family needs compete with the profit made that drivers postpone some of these things to later date. I will please beg the government to have a rethink on the fine. It is too much.”

A private car owner, John Adebola said enforcing proper documentation is not out of place but imposing such huge fine is cruel. According to him, it is really intolerant when considered that the public transport system is not one that naturally encourages people to leave their cars behind at home.

“The public transport system is not one that an average executive can see as an option though it is cheaper in terms of moving around the city if you are not hiring a cab.

For me, the government’s ultimate aim is to generate revenue. The state’s income, especially revenue from federal allocation is down and the state government is just looking for ways to use the citizens to raise the bar of revenue. Or what else do we call the N20,000 fine for each offence?”

The new policy is taking a toll on commuters in some routes, as commercial drivers now pick routes to operate, especially once VIOs are on the road.

This is aside the reality that some commercial drivers only operate after 3pm which results in commuters wasting time at bus stops.Many commercial drivers who operate on the Ikeja-Alausa route have abandoned it because of the activities of VIOs. It was also learnt that even when their documentation is valid and up to date, the VIOs often come up with vague charges and the hapless driver caught in the web of extortion has nobody to appeal to.

The public outcry that has followed the new billing plan, no doubt reflected that people were not properly carried along, especially since the government said it is not a new regime of fine. Questions have been asked as to how much of sensitisation of the public the government did before this enforcement.

The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Transport, Prince Olarenwaju Elegushi, re-echoed the statement issued earlier that the electronic billing is not just starting but a part of the Central Billing System which is automating the collection of government revenue and aimed to replace the paper ticket with electronically generated tickets.

He further said that the state government was compelled to take on the policy because electronic platforms involve less human interference; aside the new billing system has been programmed to show offences and indicates appropriately penalties for redress in case of officers acting in appropriately.

Asked if the justification of the flat rate of N20,000 fine is boosting IGR, safety or maintaining standard or inflicting more hardship on vehicle owners considering the harsh economy besides the value of the documents and tools that are the issue of violation are not more than N5000 each,  Elegushi argued that laws are basically to extract compliance at the risk of punishment.

He maintained that there is nothing to compare to a life lost in any accident occasioned by poor state of vehicles or non-obedience to the law. “If they obey, there will be nothing to enforce.”The Special Adviser said the ministry cannot act beyond the confines of the law, as it has not been granted the powers to vary the laws, but to basically ensure the law is upheld.

Reacting to the new billing system, the Lagos State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede warned commercial drivers in the state to make sure that their vehicles are in good condition and all their papers valid and up to date to avoid being penalized by men of the Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) of the Lagos State Ministry of Transport (MOT).

Agbede however appealed to the Vehicle Inspector Officers to “ temper justice with mercy, as it may not be easy to meet all the conditions especially in a time like this.”

Spotlighting the recertification of commercial drivers by Lagos State Driving Institute, Agbede wondered what the duty of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) would be .

He stated that though when the Institute was launched, it was welcomed by the NURTW but making non certification by the Institute an offence now is unfair, especially concerning the fact that majority of the drivers would have gone through certification one certification from a driving school.

“I do not think that certification by the Institute should be made compulsory for commercial drivers; it is those who are about learning to drive that should be encouraged to visit the institute. “It should also be noted that the certification was limited to commercial drivers but if truly aimed at ensuring safety “then there should be no limitation to those who should be certified by the institute.”

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