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FRSC’s faded number plates- whose fault?

The Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has ordered his men to impound vehicles with faded number plates thereby further heaping unnecessary…

The Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has ordered his men to impound vehicles with faded number plates thereby further heaping unnecessary suffering and expenses on Nigerian road users. Without elaborating, the FRSC boss claims that the use of faded number plates has implication for national security. It is the same warped logic that made government shut telephone lines down for “national security” while kidnappers freely used telephones to demand ransom payments!

Everyone knows that criminals use vehicles with no number plates or covered plates, yet FRSC has quite unjustifiably set themselves up as prosecutor and judge in the matter. Considering the current state of the economy, it is outrageous to impose upon citizens a penalty of up to N20,000 for “faded” number plates which only they can determine. The issue of faded number plates is big business for the FRSC members who now take it upon themselves to harass all non-government vehicles, including mothers taking their children on school run, and detain travellers in the middle of nowhere on the highways.

It has often been said that once a Nigerian is given a uniform, it affects their psyche and they generally carry on as if they are masters of the public rather than their servants. This is perhaps a fall-out from the years of military misadventure into governance where the imposition of authority and use of unquestionable force was the norm. These days the superficial thought processes and lack of conscience in those who govern Nigeria allow agencies to get away with extortion.  FRSC already got away with forcing Nigerians to replace old valid driving licenses and number plates with costly new ones. The current Nigerian vehicle registration plates were introduced in 1992 and revised in 2011. The only change was that the numbers were simply reversed and an outline map of Nigeria was added which makes the numbers more difficult to read! The new number plate costs N35,000 and quite naturally many vehicle owners have not bought it especially since FRSC, which is responsible for the production, designing and issuing of number plates has stopped bothering people.

When the new number plates were first issued in 1992, there were so many complaints from vehicle owners. It was quite clear that the price was unjustifiable and the plates were of lower quality than those produced by private businesses. Impervious to criticism of any sort, FRSC authorities refused to accept the truth and never stipulated that plates must be replaced after any period of time. It is illogical to state that having a faded vehicle number plate is an offence, while the production and sale of inferior quality plates isn’t. The FRSC Public Education Officer defended the evident low quality of the number plates, but could not explain why vehicles imported into Nigeria from Europe, which were licensed in the 1990’s still have clear number plates while Nigerian number plates routinely fade after a few years especially those placed on the front of the vehicle.

There is absolutely no justification for citizens having to bear the cost of the FRSC’s incompetence in the production of befitting quality number plates. Surely, even if any replacement is required, the onus should be on the agency that issued the low quality number plates in the first place. Quite absurdly, FRSC accepts no blame whatsoever but blames the weather for damaging number plates as well as car wash attendants who they claim use abrasive materials! Perhaps the worst aspect of the matter is that to apply for a replacement, number plate car owners have to waste both time and money visiting an FRSC centre, obtaining an application form to which other documents  need to be attached, pay another exorbitant fee, and wait for at least 10 to 15 days to collect another inferior plate. In addition to all the payment and time wasting in FRSC offices, applicants must obtain a “Police Report” as well as an “Affidavit of Intent” which are another time-consuming and costly processes through no fault of theirs.

It is difficult to fathom why the same government which has set the minimum wage at N30,000 appears to have no control over its agencies which harass citizens as they please because they have the power to intimidate and seize assets legally or otherwise. Even worse, there is a reported inconsistency in the fines being levied with some motorists being made to pay N5, 000 while others are made to pay N20,000 and still directed to procure new number plates.

If it is truly about “national security” then there is no logic behind fining individuals; defaulting drivers should be made to make payments for automatic replacements rather than first being fined. It indicates an overriding insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.  Government should ask themselves what happens after a citizen buys a car and pays for driving licence, number plate, tinted glass permit, fire extinguisher, C-caution and road-worthiness. Are the roads themselves worthy? Fuel and diesel prices continuously increase, and the mass transit public transportation system is an abysmal alternative wherever it manages to exist at all. It is lamentable that the FRSC simply wants to make money from road users with nothing new to offer. Considering the arbitrariness of FRSC decision making, what can stop any new leadership from tomorrow finding fault with this new design and forcing another new number plate on long suffering citizens?