Lagos VIOs’ pains, gains of motorists and commuters
Reactions have continued to trail Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s Tuesday ban of the operations of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) on all roads in the state.
Ambode’s pronouncement during the commissioning the pedestrian bridge, lay-by and slip road at Ojodu-Berger bus stop puts to rest the uncertainty concerning the absence of VIOs on the roads since he ordered them off last week.
Restating the commitment of his administration to ensuring free flow of traffic within the state, Ambode also directed the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to restrict their operations to highways and stay off main streets within the metropolis.
As expected, the move has been positively received by Lagosians, as many commuters complained that the high-handedness of the agencies had become unbearable, aggravating an already unpleasant situation.
Some motorists and commuters who spoke to The Guardian commended the governor for his sincerity and not being economical with the truth. They, however, welcome the state government’s move to digitise VIO’s operations and make it a technology-driven agency.
Felix Oboagwina, a journalist, hailed the ban, noting that the action followed public outcry by residents over alleged gross violation of rights and extortion of different kinds by officers of the agency.
Oboagwina, narrating his ordeal in the VIO’s office in Ejigbo, said he recently ran into a roadblock mounted by officials of the agency on Liasu Road in Alimosho Council.
Rather than concentrate on their duties, such as checking vehicle headlights and indicator lights, revving the engine for excessive smoking, as enshrined in the laws that established the agency, the VIO officials often busied themselves with vehicle paper inspection.
“Recently, I ran into a roadblock mounted by officers of the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) of Lagos State on Liasu Road in Alimosho. Their presence gave me no qualms, for (as I supposed) I had all the necessary papers- Driver’s Licence, Certificate of Insurance, Proof of Ownership Certificate, including the controversial MOT that is supposed to give the vehicle a clean bill of health.
“I drove an unbranded official car, a Toyota Corona, with the papers made out in the name of my boss, a reputable politician and frontline professional, Mr. Jimi Agbaje.
“The team stopped me, ignored the ‘PRESS’ sticker on the windscreen indicating that I am a journalist (and most unlikely to break the law) and ushered me off the road.
“These two points soured one female officer, Risikatu (as I later learnt was her name) that I was a pressman and worked for an opposition political party in the state,” he added
He continues: “Risikatu took my papers and paced up and down, inspecting not my vehicle, as VIOs were supposed to do, but the papers. She and the rest of the team did none of the things VIOs traditionally did.
“Instead, Risikatu brashly ordered me out of the vehicle. I stepped out and she flipped through the papers some more.“This lady accused, prosecuted, judged and sentenced me on the spot and wrote out a fine ticket for N5, 000 and told me to deposit that amount at the FCMB Branch at Okota, about five kilometres away in Isolo, even though there was a branch closer to the scene.
“Risi then directed one of her subordinates to board the vehicle and escort me to the Alimosho Council compound in Ikotun. This effectively aborted my programme for the day, including my plan to see a church member admitted at the General Hospital in Igando and paying a sympathy visit to a relation hit by multiple deaths,” he recounted.
Oboagwina further stated that on the way, he asked the junior VIO officer, Demola, how he could secure genuine papers since Risi’s excuse for reining him in was for possessing forged vehicle particulars.
Demola could not say, but went on to say that his own father, who had served in the VIO for 30 years before retiring, had always regarded the acquisition of genuine papers as the most damning thing an officer could involve in.
As directed, he paid the fine at FCMB and brought both teller and electronic scratch card to LASTMA/VIO office at Ejigbo for ‘downloading.’The VIO officer on the computer demanded N200 before doing the job, which he paid, but was never issued a receipt.
Next was submission of photocopies of the receipt, teller and fine ticket. Another officer, to whom he would submit this document demanded N100. Again, he paid and still no receipt was given.
“After all this, I still spent over two hours gallivanting in the premises, as the official to issue the ‘gate pass’ that I needed to retrieve my car was nowhere around. When he finally resurfaced, he had a Herculean task securing the gate pass for me, even though I had to cough out another N500.
“I reached Alimosho Council (Ikotun-Igando LCDA) compound in Ikotun late in the evening. There, another surprise awaited me. “The security man insisted I pay another undocumented N500 before allowing the vulcaniser to inflate the tyres, two of which had been deflated in my absence.
“The vulcaniser charged N200 per tyre (at least double the N50 it would normally cost on the street). By this time, I was too pissed off by the rottenness being dispensed at the VIO/LASTMA setup in Ejigbo that I just wanted to end that day’s nightmare at any cost.
“In summary, the illegal payments I made that day at VIO/LASTMA in Ejigbo and Ikotun came to N1, 300, made up of N200 to download, N100 for recording via photocopy, N500 for pass, N500 for exit, not counting the wasted day or the N5, 000 I paid into the bank as official fine.”
Also reacting to the ban, Oloruntoyin Ajisafe, a commercial motorist plying Ikotun-Cele/Okota Express. He stated that the ban is long overdue, given that the extortionist acts of most of the VIOs had been perpetrated on roads for a very long time with government taking action.
“They had been frustrating road users like me and given nightmares on the roads. They totally, and deliberately too, veer off what constitute their core duties to pursue what is not their within their beat,” he said.
Ajisafe alleged that the inspectorate was established to basically ensure that vehicles are road worthy, but they impound vehicles, harass and extort innocent Lagosians over driving licenses, traffic offenses, seat belts, tax clearance, LISRA and a whole lot of issues.
“They choose any reason they feel is most plausible and bare their corrupt fangs on their victims. Most of the officers do not carry out their duties for the sake of which they were created; they are always motivated by extortionist tendencies.
“We thank the governor for taking this bold step and also agree, like the administration has stated, that they should digitise the outfit for repositioning.”
For John Kainebi, a sales executive, the governor has scored another good one with the ban, urging him to ensure the ban is enforced, so that the relief he seeks to bring to Lagosians via the move will not be un-achievable.
“We call on him to also look into the activities of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officers and Task Force Squads with a view of sanitising them.
“There must be training and re-training for all these officers on the best practices as far as their duties are concerned and respect for human rights of citizens,” he said.
Meanwhile, as the jubilation continues, some residents of the state believe that it would be difficult for the governor to effectively reform officers of the agency.
Some even urged other state governors to emulate Ambode and his plans to make its agencies act with human face.
Mohammed Semiudeen questioned why the VIOs have been singled out, wondering what becomes the fate of thousands of staff of the organisation now that they have been asked to stay off the roads.