Once Upon FRSC’s Scheme To Rip-off Nigerian Motorists
• History Of Agency’s ‘Money-making’ Tactics• NASS Condemns Plot To Bleed Vehicle Owners
• Buhari Favourably Disposed, Says Corps Marshal
If its antecedents are anything to go by, it could be a matter of time before an unrepentant Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) cooks up yet another reason why millions of motorists across the country must pay for the agency’s invention.
At a recent sitting, the House of Representatives began a tactical shoot down of the Commission’s latest contraption: the Electronic Controlled Modules (ECM) or Speed Limiter.
The device, according to the safety body, would restrict the way Nigerians hit the pedals, and consequently reduce – perhaps eliminate – all road accidents and related fatalities.
It might have been the wisest thing to come out of FRSC’s imaginative workshop. Sadly, the proposal left more questions than answers, sparking concerns it is just another avenue to milk innocent country people.
The House had summoned FRSC boss, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, to explain why the April 1, 2016 commencement of enforcement by the Commission should not be halted.
Referring the issue, later, to a Committee, expected to report back to the House in four weeks, Speaker Yakubu Dogara stressed: “ Almost all families are bleeding financially and it will be callous to impose this devise on them.”
It was Representative Phillips Shaibu (APC, Edo) that fired the House’s first shot at the gadget in a motion he sponsored under Matter of Urgent Public Importance, and which was unanimously adopted.
Rather than forced installation of the speed limiter that “profits only the suppliers”, Shaibu advocated use of the Spider technology, which “will generate revenue into government coffers, as defaulters will pay levies.”
Finding revealed that the Spider alternative “allows road safety officials to monitor vehicle speed from 500 meters ahead, and by so doing, is able to detect excessive speed…that is how the police and other traffic marshals in developed countries operate. The aim is not to make money but to actually reduce speed and curb accidents.”
But in a telephone conversation with the Corp Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi, he said the Commission is still working on the project to see how it will benefit Nigerians.
He said: “We are still talking; doing advocacy on the speed limiter, to let every Nigerian and stakeholder know what this is all about. The discussion is not closed yet; it is still ongoing. We are going on with enlightenment and education. And we are still going for a public hearing.
“We would further educate members of the National Assembly on the need for the project not to be jettisoned because it is a global phenomenon. We need to know that Nigeria cannot be left behind. Besides, the President is even favourably disposed to the gesture.”
The speed limiter, which according to the FRSC will cost each Nigerian driver a staggering N36,000 (procurement and installation) is an outdated technology which has already been used and abandoned by African countries. The device signals a computer system to cut fuel supply to the injector of a vehicle once preset speed limit is exceeded.
If Nigeria has 15 million vehicles and the drivers of each parts with N36,000 for a copy of the limiter, the FRSC and actors behind the plot could smile to the banks with a mind numbing N540bn!
Shaibu had also noted that with kidnappers, assassins and car snatchers often on the prowl, the device effectively puts motorists on a gunpowder keg.
Other representatives who equally blasted the idea included Johnson Agbonayinman (PDP, Edo), who regretted that some unscrupulous persons were out to make the country a dumping ground.
“It is unacceptable for someone to come through the back door to introduce a device that will rip-off Nigerians…what is needed is to ensure that there are speed breakers. Let there be road signs for people to obey,” he said.
Onyemaechi Mrapor (PDP, Delta) on his part, said: “At this time of economic downturn, it would be abnormal to levy Nigerians N36,000 on such a device. The condition is so bad…some commercial drivers cut wires in order to start their vehicles. Where do you want them to get money for speed limiting device?”
Abubakar Chika (APC, Niger) recalled: “Not quite long ago, we experienced the change of number plates by the FRSC, yet that was not beneficial to motorists.” The number plate the representative talked about had generated no small furore among the Nigerian public.
In 2014, the agency had attempted to illegally force what it described as ‘new plates’ down the throats of Nigerians. The item, it turned out, was merely an inconsequential refabricating of the old. A court ruling eventually snuffed life out of the scheme.
The FRSC had gleefully offered the ‘new’ plate to hapless Nigerians at the cost of N15,000, but for intervention by the then Senate which slashed the price down to N8000.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, said the speed limiter is backed by the FRSC Act, has executive approval, and is a presidential directive.
He said all stakeholders have already keyed into the scheme and that what Nigeria is introducing is what obtains globally. He said what the Commission is currently battling is a case of misinformation by some interest groups, who out of malice, gave members of the National Assembly (NASS) wrong information and painted the project bad because they wanted to be part of it in a way that would not augur well for the nation. According to him, these mischief-makers want a situation where they will be smiling to the banks at the detriment of the country and at great pain to the people.
He said members of the House did not really have a clear picture of the intent of this group, and that what the Commission is interested in is finding ways to cut down on the spate of accidents in the country. He explained that the project is meant to start with commercial vehicles ‘who, according to available statistics, get involved in accidents more, as a result of over speeding’.
The source told The Guardian that a related incident was an argument by one of the members of the House that retro-reflective tapes at the rear of vehicles are not necessary and that rear lights are sufficient, an idea he said is not only misleading but also malicious.
“How many trailers have rear lights and how many vehicles have run under them at night? We are talking of how to save lives, here, and some people are bent on frustrating the effort.
“NASS members do not understand Nigerian roads; they fly most times, and so don’t know what you and I go through with navigating the death traps we call roads. Are we saying somebody who can afford to buy a car for N60m cannot afford to install a speed limiter of N20,000? The retro-reflective tape is just N3,000. Is that too much? A trailer now costs between N40m to N60m.
“If somebody spends so much to buy just one… In order to save lives and extend the life span of the vehicle, we say they should install speed limiters and retro-reflective tapes, and some people are saying it is too much.
“If NASS member ply the roads and have firsthand experiences, they would not talk the way they did. In fact, the leadership of the Commission should have been commended for taking the initiative, and advised to implement more measures to ensure safety on the roads.”
Reacting, one Lagos motorist, Paul Osaende, said: “It’s one of the worst ideas they have come up with, considering they have had other bad ideas. There are so many factors working against this plan; it should have been properly considered before they even decided to tell anybody at all. In a place like Lagos, I think we are too busy sitting in traffic to care about speeding. Before you move a little distance, you have already hit someone’s bumper. So, how can you speed?
“I think this is the height of robbery. The masses cannot even afford to maintain their vehicles, considering the economic situation in the country, and you expect them to cough out that amount of money for some useless device, and those that cannot afford it before the deadline would be made to pay fines. That’s how they rob the masses. Then after a while, they will come up again with something else, to make more money as usual.”
Biggy, a commercial bus driver at Mile2, said: “This is pure oppression of the masses. How much do we make per day that we should pay such amount of money. I have not even finished payment on my vehicle. If they say they are doing this to reduce the rate of accidents on the roads, it’s a lie. How many accidents on Lagos roads are caused by over speeding? They are mainly caused by bad roads. The roads are so terrible; you cannot even speed. My opinion is that they are looking for new means to make money. I am begging the House of Representatives to stop them.”
But one private motorist, Mike Akinyoade, thinks the speed limiter is a good idea. “We all know that over speeding is a threat to human life. Some people drive recklessly, not minding the lives of other motorists. Any measure to curtail this is welcome. It would be nice if the cost of procuring it can be reviewed to allow everybody benefit.”
Uche Mba, driver of an inter-state transport company, said the move by the FRSC is positive and long overdue, as over speeding has caused many road crashes and loss of lives and property.
Mba urged the FRSC to embark on aggressive campaign on the need for motorists to comply with the directive, adding that his company will comply with the requirement.
“Recently, we spent huge amounts of money to change number plates and drivers’ licenses. We have not used them for more than a year, and now it is this speed limiter thing. It is another avenue to collect money from Nigerians. Must government always ask people to pay money? We have to feed our families and pay school fees for our children. Government should consider the masses before imposing this law,” said commercial bus driver, Austine Akinde.