When laws become harsh in the guise of enforcement, citizens are caused to react even if that in itself does not compel the government to temper justice with mercy. The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) must, therefore, reconsider the punishment for faded number plates. There is an existing law that mandates vehicle owners to replace their number plates after five years.
This law is not known to many road users. Ignorance of the law is not excusable and FRSC and Vehicle Inspection Officers are coming hard on defaulters. While we do not want to teach the FRSC their job, there is a need to point out the low quality of the number plates issued by their office. This shoddy job accounts for the short duration of the products. This should be of concern to those who are enforcing the law. The number plates do not last up to five years before they become blurred.
And this same reason is what creates tension on the road, causing gridlock and avoidable scenes. If the product was certified well, of course, it should not start peeling after three or four years. FRSC Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, has come out strongly to defend the standards, insisting that a number plate has a minimum life span of five years, with provision for replacement.
The import is that after half a decade, a vehicle owner must go for another number plate. In 2002, then Corps Marshal of the FRSC Oyeyemi Boboye, ordered his men to impound any vehicle found on the road with faded number plates. Implementation began almost immediately from the Federal Capital Territory where even Vehicle Inspection Officers pounced on defaulters with fines. Oyeyemi was succeeded later in the year by Dauda Biu. Nothing has changed.
According to the FRSC, vehicles with faded number plates pose a security risk since they could be used by terrorists and kidnappers to evade apprehension. In this era of insecurity all over the nation, we can understand the fears expressed by Road Safety officers. However, it does not sound logical to subject motorists to hassles simply because number plates issued by the same FRSC are of questionable quality.
It should not be difficult for the FRSC to search their books and find out how and where number plates were produced before 2011. At least, motorists using such number plates cannot claim that they did not get value for their money. Thorough research will show the Corps that even number plates produced in the First and Second Republics can still stand the test of time.
Technology was not as advanced then as it is now, there should be no excuses for lower standards. FRSC introduced new number plates in 1992 during the time of Dr. Olu Agunloye as Corps Marshal. He failed to wear the FRSC uniform and did not ask officers to impound vehicles without the new number plates. Compliance was advocated. Gen. Haladu Hananiya (rtd) assumed office in 1994 following the departure of Agunloye.
Apparently, FRSC officers used the cover of his Civil War background to begin impounding vehicles with pre – 1992 number plates. The Corps Marshal was High Commissioner to the UK when Umaru Dikko was crated in a botched kidnap attempt in 1985. The military government of Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar took another look at the FRSC through Chief of General Staff, Adm. Mike Akhigbe who moved the Corps back to the Nigeria Police Force.
Hananiya returned in 2003 during the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo presidency and was silent on number plates until his tenure elapsed in 2007. While Hananiya joined the FRSC as an outsider with military background, his successor, Osita Chidoka, came as a civilian, after working with Transport minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe. Chidoka, as Corps Marshal, went back to number plates in 2011. A vibrant young man with bright ideas, he reversed the 1992 arrangement and inserted the map of Nigeria.
It is the same 2011 model, produced as modernised that has created more headache for FRSC and road users. While we cannot stop the FRSC from working to improve government revenue, they are reminded that this may not be the right time to enforce the law because the faded number plates were is- sued by them. Faced with an increase in fuel pump price and taxes all around him, the motorist deserves some respite.
There are reckless drivers plying the roads, some even without relevant papers and many are part of different government convoys. These are the ones FRSC should watch out for. Vehicle owners are already impoverished by increased insurance fees, Tinted Glass permit, Certificate of Road Worthiness. And the roads are death traps.