The car was on reverse gear. The driver almost hit me. He was running away from the Vehicle Inspection Officers popularly called VIO at Cele bus stop, Lagos. The run-away driver’s gain was my loss. The officers flagged me down.
“Hope your papers are in order,” one of them queried. I answered in the affirmative. He checked my driving licence, fire extinguisher and vehicle particulars. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that my road worthiness paper expired in April. On that score, he booked me N20, 000. One of the officers entered my car and ordered me to drive to their office to see their oga.
The office was a beehive of activities. There were many impounded vehicles with deflated tyres. One vulcaniser was very busy deflating more tyres. I was hoping that the so-called oga would caution me and say, go and sin no more. But he took a good look at me and asked me to go to Skye Bank across the road to pay my fine. So, all I came to see oga for was to get the instruction to go and pay in Skye Bank? I wondered.
This reminded me of my experience with the Federal Road Safety Commission in April 2008 at Ikoyi, Lagos. Then, my offence was that one of my brake lights was not working. They booked me, but the fine was N3,000. One lady officer came to me to say I could pay N2,000 to them there instead of suffering myself to go to bank on the island to pay N3,000. I rejected the request and they angrily booked me. I went back to the island to pay the fine and also paid for The Revised Highway Code.
After reading my encounter with their officers in my Sunday Punch back page column then, (See Tales of encounter with marshals, Sunday, April 27, 2008) the authorities of the FRSC set up a high-powered panel to probe the affected officers. They were first of all recalled from the road to the head office at Ojodu Berger. On the appointed day for me to come and testify, the sister of the female officer who asked me to pay N2,000 to them called me and was crying on the phone. She pleaded that I should not go and testify, that her sister and her colleagues would be sacked if I should do that. According to her, the sister was the breadwinner of the family and had put in over 15 years in the service of the Commission. “How can she now end her career this way?” she pleaded. She even said they were ready to visit me at home to beg me and would not leave my house unless I pardoned the woman.
After so much pressure, I succumbed and suspended going to testify. I never heard from that woman again. The sector commander then was not happy with me that I failed to come and testify, wondering how corruption would be eradicated in the system if we didn’t set example with such corrupt officers. He is correct, but I didn’t want anybody to say I sacked her from her job.
Now, it is the VIO. To be fair to the officers, they did not ask me for bribe. After paying the fine of N20,000 at the Skye Bank, Okota, I waited for about one hour to collect receipt. With the receipt, I went back to the VIO office to retrieve my car. They pretended to be so nice to me, even offering me executive chair to sit on. I thanked them for their generosity and paid extra N2,000 for the road worthiness certificate which they “sell” in their office there.
My worry in all this is that my car is a new Toyota Camry (latest model). There are many rickety, smoky vehicles polluting the environment, but these officers close their eyes to this anomaly. Even when I got a new road worthiness certificate, nobody tested my vehicle to ascertain how road worthy it is before issuing me with the certificate.
Meanwhile, boldly written on the certificate are these words: “I hereby certify that I have examined the vehicle described below which, in all respects, conforms with the requirements of the Road Traffic Regulations, and that it is road worthy…”
Who is fooling whom? Is the VIO an agency interested in making our vehicles road worthy or just to make money for themselves and the state government?
Of course, we need to sanitise our roads. We need to sanitise our vehicles. But more importantly, we need to sanitise VIO, LASTMA, KAI and sundry agencies terrorising Nigerians on the roads.