Vehicle Inspection Officers
A company driver, Kehinde Oluwadare, was driving a Toyota Prado from Maryland to Oshodi when he was stopped as he tried to join the Gbagada Expressway en-route Oshodi, after Anthony Village Bus Stop by the Lagos Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO).
He was going to Ajao Estate, Isolo to pick his boss at a hotel along Airport Road.
Convinced that all his vehicle documents and particulars, including the driver’s licence, were intact, he slowly brought the jeep to a halt and exchanged pleasantries with the officers.
One of the officers demanded his vehicle particulars, which he gladly gave to him. After a perusal of the documents, the officer requested his drivers’ institute verification card.
Confused by the request, Oluwadare politely told the officer that he did not understand and the officer threatened to take him to their nearby office for documentation.
However, after moments of pleading, the officer allowed him to go but not without asking him to go to the institute for testing and the verification card to prevent the vehicle from being impounded by officers.
On further inquiry, Oluwadare learnt it was a prerequisite for his continuous driving in Lagos and it should be a yearly thing.
Reliving his experience, Oluwadare, who took to driving after losing his job at a bank, said he was lucky to meet more courteous officers.
But that was not the case for Johnson Oteh, an Uber driver, who was arrested in Ikeja by VIO officers because he could not produce the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute (LASDRI) card.
His Toyota Corolla car was also impounded. It was only released after paying a fine and N3,000 required for the verification at the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute, Ilupeju.
The two cases represent harrowing experiences Lagos drivers are made to pass through in a bid to eke out a living.
Some of the drivers, who either drive for themselves or others, sometimes pay money to officers to avoid being delayed or their cars being impounded.
But, a driver to a director in Isolo told The Guardian that the verification was suspended by the former governor of Lagos State because it amounted to double taxation.
The driver, who spoke in confidence, queried why he still needed yearly verification after going through a lot of tests to get the national drivers’ licence.
According to him, this is not definitely the best of times for drivers in Lagos, as the imposition of N3,000 fees for verification cards along with the national driving licence amounts to double taxation.
He stressed that the issue was worrisome because getting drivers’ licence involves officials of VIO, Federal Road Safety Corps and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).
Also, a lawyer, Ojo Michael, said the policy was counterproductive to the government’s effort to attract investors.
He stressed that in other climes, drivers’ licences are for life and not renewable as the case in Nigeria.
According to Michael, it is unfathomable that Lagos, a pace-setter state, should be employing such antics for revenue drive.
But the Director of Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS), Lagos State, Akin Fashola, said recertification is compulsory for all motorists that are driving for a living.
According to him, the law in Lagos states that commercial drivers who earn a living from driving are supposed to have an institute verification card along with their driver’s licence, being a requirement every year they go for recertification. Private drivers and professionals that earn their living through driving must have certification.
“Commercial drivers, BRT and Danfo are included, as well as those that drive in banks. If you have a driver, you are paying for the driver, he must do certification annually,” he said.
On whether it does that amount to double taxation, Fashola said he did not think so because it is a state law.
“It is a certification for those driving. It is for safety and for identification and one of the control measures (to ensure) that those drivers in that category are truly well and equipped to handle that kind of job,” he said.
Also, the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, said the drivers’ institute is an institution that trains commercial drivers.
“Apart from having a driver’s licence, as a commercial driver is entrusted with people’s lives, hence, the institute will recertify them every year.
“It is about retraining, making sure that they are fit to carry other people; it is not a driver’s licence. It is a recertification.”
The Guardian learnt that Section 211 of Lagos State Drivers’ Institute, Part V111, provides courses for instruction, training and set standards for driving schools in the state, in collaboration with the ministry of transportation.
The objective of the drivers’ institute is to ensure that all professional drivers in the employment of the government and private organisations attend the institute for training and re-training at least once every year to update their skills.
The institute also issues certificates of competence to drivers who have successfully completed training in the institute; provides facilities to assist registered driving schools in the state, and compiles data, and maintains a register of driving schools in the state, as well as all professional drivers in the state.