Commercial and private drivers have decried the upward review of rates payable to obtain driver’s licence and new number plates across the country.
The federal government while making the announcement last week said it was part of measures to increase revenue for the country to execute projects that will benefit the citizenry.
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However, many people interviewed in some states across the six geopolitical zones dismissed the reasons advanced by the Joint Task Board (JTB) which finalised the decision.
They said they were being taxed beyond what their income could afford at a time when the cost of living had gone high.
Some of those interviewed said there was the need for President Muhammadu Buhari to speak on behalf of the poor by calling on revenue-generating agencies to order.
The Joint Task Board had last week announced that with effect from August 1, standard private number plates and commercial number plates amongst others would cost N18, 750 as against the previous N12, 000.
It also approved that drivers’ licence for three years and five years would now cost N10, 350 and N15, 450, respectively, as against the previous N6, 450, and N10, 450.
It directed all state boards of internal revenue to ensure strict adherence to the newly approved fees.
The JTB is the apex body for tax authorities in Nigeria. It was established under the provision of session 86(1) of PITA, 2004.
Lagos confirms increment
The General Manager, Lagos State Motor Vehicle Administration Agency (MVAA), Lape Kilanko, said that the approval was conveyed in a letter issued by the JTB on July 30, 2021, and was addressed to the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
While noting that the letter was forwarded to the 36 state governors to ensure uniformity across the country, Kilanko said that the state government would comply with the directives.
According to her, the letter implored all state boards of internal revenue to ensure strict adherence to the approved rates for uniformity in the administration of road taxes in Nigeria.
However, less than two weeks after the commencement of implementation, many motorists had kicked against the hike and called on the federal government to reverse it.
They said besides the high cost of petroleum products and the inability of people to travel due to insecurity, many taxes have been indirectly imposed on the populace at a time Nigeria was struggling to recover from the effect of COVID-19 and recession.
Condemnation in Rivers
Anger and condemnations have trailed the recent increase in the cost of obtaining a drivers’ licence in Port Harcourt.
A transporter, Mr Chris Bufe, said that the increase in the new charges would have multiplier effects on the road transport sector in the country.
Mr Bufe said that passengers of commercial vehicles would suffer more because the new regime came at a very wrong time given the difficult economic situation in the country.
According to him, “Nigerians are facing terrible economic hardship because of the high cost of food items and other important needs of life and coming to increase the cost of obtaining drivers’ licence and number plates is going to have a serious effect in the transport sector.”
A private vehicle owner, Elder Bright Ogbemudia, said the increase was punishment for Nigerians.
A road transport official in Oyigbo, Okere Ikechukwu, said passengers would indirectly pay the increment.
Motorists reject new rates in Kaduna
A commercial driver in Kaduna, Ibrahim Taiwo, described the increase as “inhuman” on the part of the government.
According to him, “Despite the hardship people are facing, the government still wants to make it worse with this increase. People have been struggling to pay school fees and medical care…This is not a good time to make such an increase. Have they tried to find out how we have been struggling to cope with the old cost?” he asked.
On his part, Suleiman Abubakar said there was the likelihood of him parking his car.
Johnson Adams said law enforcement agents would not make life easy for those whose licences are due for renewal.
When contacted, State Secretary, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Comrade Bature Suleiman, said he was not aware of any increase.
“I have not been briefed about it,” he said.
Mixed reactions in Kwara
In Kwara State, some of the commercial drivers who spoke on the increase expressed divergent views.
While some of them said it will be an additional burden that the government passed to the drivers over the years, others saw the development as not a big problem.
According to Mr Ayo, the issue may not affect people much since it is going to be a yearly thing.
“This is Nigeria and I will say we have become used to some of these draconian policies. May Almighty God helps us to survive this particularly unbelievable period of our existence,” he said.
Mr Fishbone Blessing said further increment will not augur well for the already impoverished masses.
“The number plate my mother collected about three days ago was around N30, 000 for Ilorin metropolis. Other local governments collect around N27, 000. My driving licence has expired over ten years ago and I am yet to renew it all because of the issue of money. Now they want to increase it again.”
Taraba NURTW kicks
The NURTW Chairman in Taraba State, Sabo Abdullahi, has called on the federal government to revert to the old rates to save the masses.
He said the cost of fuel and spare parts were on the high side while vehicle owners were spending too much in repairing their vehicles because of bad roads.
The chairman, however, ruled out the possibility of increasing transport fares by commercial vehicle owners.
A private car owner, Musa, said many car owners could not afford to renew their licences due to hardship.
Kano yet to implement hike
The Kano State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS) has not started implementing the new rates.
Its spokesman, Malam Rabi’u Rimin Gado, said they were yet to implement the approved increase and insisted that he would not comment further.
A 46-year- old commercial mini-truck driver, Malam Aliyu Abubakar, said he was not aware of any increment.
“Honestly, there is no need to increase the cost of driver’s licence and number plates. This is not a good time because Nigerians deserve a respite,” he said.
Both commercial and private drivers in Jos, the Plateau State capital kicked against the recent approval by the federal government for the upward review of driver’s licence and number plates.
A commercial driver on the Jos-Lafia road, Mohammed Bello, said the government should have prioritised road repairs.
He said the road from Abuja to Jos was in a serious state of disrepair. “You must always go to the mechanic garage after every trip. A few days ago, the FG said they would bring back toll gates and now they have increased rates for obtaining licence…It is sad.”
A private driver, Douglas Francis, said the government was not fair.
“They should look for other ways of raising revenues but not from this perspective because this would inflict pain on the people,” he said.
Reacting, the Chairman NURTW, NTA Park, Jos, Ibrahim Makurdi, said drivers would be compelled to increase their fares and that would have a multiplying effect on the prices of food and other commodities.
In Gombe State, motorists and passengers who spoke to Daily Trust expressed mixed feelings.
A commercial vehicle driver, Timothy John, said the increase came at the wrong time when people were still struggling to recover from the economic effect of COVID-19 lockdown.
Another driver, Musa Yunusa, said it was wrong for the government to just announce the decision without consulting commercial drivers and relevant labour leaders.
A motorist, Ado Mamman, who was interviewed in Kaltungo Motor Park, pleaded with the drivers not to add a kobo on what passengers were currently paying.
An official of NURTW, Murtala Ya’u, appealed to the federal government to reconsider the new increment, saying it would negatively affect their business.
Dr Safiya Tanko said the hardship being experienced in the country made the decision very unpopular, “There is enough hardship in the land already. It is ridiculous and another means of exploitation as our earnings have not increased one bit,” she said.
In Abuja, Nuruddeen, a private car owner at Utako, said it was extortion considering the economic hardship in the country.
“This is not the right time for any increment because previously, SUVs renewed their documents at N14, 000, while new number plate depending on the type was N48, 000. They have now increased the rate by over 30 per cent; it is wrong,” he said.
Abdulaziz Ibrahim, another car owner in Kuje Area Council of the FCT, said, “The current fee for vehicle particulars is not being paid by about 40 per cent of the motorists in this country and you are now increasing it. There is no rationale behind that. By this increment, they are automatically increasing the number of cars that would be hitting the road officials on our highways.
“This is because, when they want to stop you and you know they would ask you about the particulars of your vehicle, you will only be thinking of how to run,” he said.
Anas Adamu, a commercial operator of two vehicles at Jabi Motor Park, lamented that drivers were not faring well.
“Diesel prices jerked up from N145 to N295 and vehicle particulars skyrocketed from N12, 000 to a staggering N18, 000 or more. And our clients are always passing the buck to us thinking we are increasing our charges at will. Now, virtually everything is getting messier.
“Prices of various receipts and licences in different states are taking a toll on us,” he said.
The FCT Directorate of Road Services also known as VIO could not be reached for comments.
When Daily Trust went to their office around 4 pm, both the Director, Alhaji Wadata Bodinga and the Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mr Kalu Emetu were not on the seat and they did not respond to the text messages sent to them for comments. They also did not pick several calls made to their mobile phone numbers.
We’re not responsible for increment
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) said yesterday that the agency was not responsible for the increase in the prices of number plates.
The Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, said this in an interview on Thursday in Abuja.
Kazeem said it became necessary for the corps to warn those attributing the increase to them.
He said that the noble mandate of the FRSC was to make the nation’s highways safe for motorists and other road users across the country.
According to him, the FRSC was not set up as a revenue-generation agency but to ensure the protection of lives and property on the road.
By Terkula Igidi, Faruk Shuaibu, Maureen Onochie, Dalhatu Liman (Abuja), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna), Mumini Abdulkareem (Ilorin), Magaji I. Hunkuyi (Jalingo), Ibrahim M. Giginyu (Kano), Dickson S. Adama (Jos), Haruna G. Yaya, Rabilu Abubakar (Gombe) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)