By Nelson Ekujumi
Following Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s announcement of the ban of Vehicle Inspection Service officials (VIS) from Lagos roads at the public commissioning of the Ojodu Berger bus stop pedestrian bridges, a lay by and a slip road some few days ago, the public space has been awash with divergent comments on the proprietary or otherwise of the government’s decision.However, one must admit that the voices that have been applauding the government’s decision seems to be in the lead in view of the perception and complaints against the VIO as being high handed, uncivil, engaged in extortion, arbitrary impoundment and fines, etc.
But in announcing the ban on VIO from the roads, Mr. Governor didn’t corroborate the complaints, but rather harped on the need of his government to employ modern technology rather than manual efforts in carrying out the responsibilities of tracking and monitoring vehicle registration and certification in line with global best practices.
For our education and information, on15th April 2016, acting without a vote, the UN General Assembly and its Member States adopted a resolution on “Improving global road safety”(document A/70/L.44) expressing concern that road traffic crashes killed more than 1.25 million people and injured as many as 50 million people a year.
Thus, in consonance with the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020: Member States are specifically invited to adopt comprehensive legislation on key risk factors like speeding, drinking and driving and improve the safety of vehicles and roads of which a compulsory vehicle inspection (both periodic and roadside) is crucial to improving road safety.
Therefore, while one appreciates the government’s commitment to adopting technology for the execution of its responsibilities in the 21stcentury, one is at a loss to explain the rationale for the “jubilation” that has greeted the government’s action which is simply a change of tactics and thus one is suspicious of the motive of these “happy” people which needs to be scrutinized, in the long term interest of the society.
One has heard complaints against the fines of VIO for erring motorists as being on the high side, when it’s a fact that the fines are statutorily approved in the Lagos state traffic law. So why heap the blame on the messenger (VIO) who is only enforcing the law as passed by the lawmakers? Rather, our focus should be on reworking our traffic laws to comply with international standards where we deem it draconian. Some persons have also complained that when VIO stops their vehicles for check on the roads, they turn a blind eye to other vehicles which in their view are rickety and in breach of the law. But the truth of the matter is that the VIO, do not have the personnel and materials to arrest all the erring motorists on the roads at a particular time.
One must acknowledge the fact that notwithstanding the complaints against the VIO on Lagos roads, if there is one agency be it federal or state that has driven fear into the minds of drivers and vehicle owners who are in breach of the law, it is the VIO with their uncompromising enforcement against erring motorists.
While one cannot rule out the possibility that there may indeed be some bad eggs among the vehicle inspection officers whose conduct paints the service in bad light in the eyes of the public, it is also a fact that within their limits, the VIO have to a large extent ensured that a lot of vehicle owners with expired drivers licence and vehicle papers, broken lights, rickety vehicles stay off Lagos roads for fear of being apprehended and prosecuted.
The fear of arrest by the VIO has made many law breaching vehicle owners to resort to ply the roads early in the morning before the resumption of work by the vehicle inspection officers or late in the night when they must have closed officially for the day.
Thus, one expects the VIO to be commended for its untiring and risk taking efforts at ensuring that carnages are reduced on our roads rather than the condemnation that has greeted their activities and the “joy” of its ban by those that one suspects have been denied the opportunity to endanger public safety by the presence of the VIO on the roads.
Well, the days ahead promises to be of interest for the motoring public and public safety, but be that as it may, one hopes and pray that some of our country men and women “celebrating” the ban on VIO in Lagos state will play their part in contributing positively to reduce carnages on our roads by voluntarily ensuring like we have complied with the use of seat belts, that only licensed drivers and vehicles with valid documents and functioning apparatus ply our the roads notwithstanding the transition from manual to technology for tracking and monitoring vehicle registration and certification because soon, it will be revealed whether we are law abiding or violating motorists.
I rest my case.