Monday, August 31, 2009

Lagos Drivers' Certification Card and FRSC

Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola last week launched the Driver Re-certification Card. The card - which will be issued by the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute - will be a pre-requisite for driving on Lagos roads for both commercial and private drivers. However, according to Mr Kayode Opeifa (Special Adviser on Transportation), the card is not a substitute for the national driving licence - administered by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). But as part of the scheme, commercial and professional drivers will need to undergo annual re-training at the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute.

Whilst Gov. Fashola should be commended for initiative, there are two issues with this project that concerns me. Firstly, why the need for annual re-training? For starters, Nigeria is the only place I’m aware of, where holders of a national drivers’ licence are required to undertake a re-certification training by a state government. Okay let’s even accept that every driver in Lagos needs to be re-trained, because it is no secret that majority of drivers’ licence holders in Nigeria never visited a test centre talk less sit a driving test. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they don’t know what the “highway code” looks like. But having said that, how many times do you really need to be trained? Is the Lagos state government saying that road traffic rules in Lagos are so dynamic that one needs to be trained annually? I find this laughable to say the least. In most parts of the world, drivers are usually required to undergo re-assessment when they reach the age of 70years. And this is quite understandable. The introduction of a ‘world-class’ training facility for drivers and at the same time subjecting them to annual training seems contradictory. If a driver a properly trained to international standard once, then we re-train annually. Already, there are sections of the society who are saying the annual re-training is just a money making exercise. But can you really blame such conspiracy theorists, when such a policy cannot in anyway be justified.

I do not blame Gov. Fashola for introducing an initiative that is a core responsibility of a federal agency. It is quite understandable that there are significant traffic issues in Lagos he needs to deal with. And it has become apparent that the FRSC is incompetent in this regard. However, the introduction of driver re-certification if not checked could create chaos in the system. This of course brings me to the second issue. What will happen, if other states decide to pursue the same agenda? Does that mean a commercial driver that travels interstate will have to undertake a “re-certification training” in every state of the federation? The fact remains that there is no legislation that compels any state to accept a drivers’ certificate issued by another state.

Whether the project succeeds or not, Gov. Fashola’s initiative has again exposed the ineptitude of the FRSC in discharging its statutory responsibilities. The failure of the FRSC in the area of driver and vehicular licensing cannot be overemphasised; hence Gov. Fashola’s re-certification scheme. One of the reasons why the FRSC was established was “ to design the driver’s license to be used by all vehicle operators and to determine from time to time, the requirement to be satisfied by an applicant for a driver’s license”. But unfortunately, applicants have to navigate through an arduous bureaucratic process that has almost entirely been hijacked by touts, fraudsters and corrupt government officials. For a paltry some of N5,000 you could have a licence delivered to your front door without undergoing any form of test or assessment. Whether an applicant is medically fit to drive a car is not even an issue. As a result, there are lots of drivers on our roads who lack understanding of basic road traffic rules. Some are even mentally deficient.

The Lagos project therefore calls into question the role of the FRSC in driver and vehicle licensing. According to Mr Wole Olaniran, the Zonal Commanding Officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps Zone 2, “the initiative of the Lagos State government for the annual re-certification of drivers in the state, should be emulated by other states and the private sector”. He further added that Driver’s Recertification Card will help checkmate the issuance of fake national driver’s license and entrench sanity on Nigeria’s roads. But does it mean that the FRSC is now absolving itself from its statutory responsibilities? Yes I agree that card could help checkmate forgery, but what has been the FRSC effort at tackling forgery since its creation? What if the state is not blessed with a proactive Governor such as Fashola? I consider the statement of the Zonal Commander as an indictment of an agency that seems to have lost focus. Is he publicly calling for state governments and private sector to take over the functions of the FRSC? The fact that a state government re-certification card now takes precedence over the national drivers licence only makes a mockery of the federal government licensing scheme. What is the purpose of a FRSC national drivers’ license that you can “buy” for N5,000 when you still need to obtain a re-certification card before you can drive?

The efforts of the likes of Gov. Fashola should however be used to put pressure on the Federal govt to officially absolve itself from duties that are primary functions of a state government. The current situation is totally at odds with the principle of “federalism”. And in order to forestall chaos in the system, my advice to the government is, if the federal government still intends to be in control of vehicle and driver licensing, then it is imperative that the FRSC is strengthened to deliver on its responsibilities. An alternative is a review of the functions of the FRSC, with the aim of transferring vehicle and driver licensing to respective state governments, as it would be expected in a genuine federal system. This will however require changes to the legislation, which will compel state governments to accept drivers’ licence issued from other states. The FRSC should therefore be made to focus on road safety and development of appropriate driving standards.

4 comments:

Kola Akin said...

Well said Seyi, I sincerely appreciate your efforts with the concerns of Lagos state and Nigeria as a whole. I commend you effort!
However, I agree with the fact that the state governor (BRF) is doing so much to secure sanity amongst Lagos driver by introducing the re-certification program for the state's drivers BUT would the national driver's license take predominance over the state's?
Also, in as much I concur with the program, i still believe it should be at least every 2 - 5 years to be re-certified because in the modern world, a license lasts between 5 to 10 years from the issue date before renewal BUT was is the FRSC doing to measure the duplicacy of the national driver's license?
Our efforts in trying to move Nigeria forward will not be in vain. amen...Good work Seyi!

HEAL NIGERIA said...

@Kola, thanks for your comments.
I can't seem to understand why the annual re-training as well. In terms of precedence, I really don't know which licence is superior. For me, the introduction of the re-certification card as somewhat made the FRSC licence redundant. The legislation is however very explicit on who can issue drivers' licence(ie FRSC), and I will therefore be interested to know the outcome if challenged in court.

Anonymous said...

His excellency and Lagos State house of Assembly understands the contents of exclusive legislative list. They might just need to explain the rationale for retraining and its legal implications. communication is very important when Government policies are being introduced.

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