Years after the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) inaugurated the portal system aimed at curbing driver’s licence racketeering, the practice still persists with the template changing from cloning and forgery to subversion of the process, which in turn enriches officials, FELIX NWANERI and KAYODE OLANREWAJU report
Most Nigerians were happy some years back, when the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) inaugurated the Driver’s Licence Portal system nationwide.
The portal’s main objective is to ensure that before anyone gets the national driver’s licence, he or she must attend any of the accredited driving schools to acquire the requisite theory and practical training with result-oriented assessments at intervals. The system works in stages both for licence renewal and new acquisition.
The stages for renewal are: Online application or in person at a Driver’s Licence Centre (DLC); payment of licence fee online or at the bank; presentation of application form to the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) officer and Vehicle Inspection Officer (VIO) at the DLC for endorsement; biometric data capturing at the DLC office; obtaining of a temporary driver’s licence valid for 60 days and picking up an original licence at the BIR office after 60 days.
For those obtaining a licence for the first time, the stages involve are: Attending training at an accredited driving school after which the school presents the applicant to the VIO for a driving test; passing of the driving test and obtaining of a certificate of proficiency from the VIO; completion of the driver’s licence application form at the DLC; payment of the licence fee online or at the bank; presenting application form to the BIR officer and VIO at the DLC office for endorsement; proceeding to the FRSC officer at the DLC office for biometric data capturing; obtaining a temporary driver’s licence valid for 60 days and lastly, picking up the original licence at the BIR office after 60 days.
No doubt, the portal system was instituted to bring to an end, the racketeering of driver’s licence, which in the past, made it easy for a great number of people without any knowledge of driving to acquire the permit, and possibly, explains why Nigeria was in 2015, rated the third country with the highest rate of road accidents and one of the most dangerous countries to drive in.
But, years after its launch, driver’s licence racketeering still persists. The template has changed from cloning and forgery of the licence by all manner of persons, touts inclusive, to subversion of the process, which in turn, enriches FRSC officials.
Investigation by New Telegraph shows that it takes close to a year rather than about 120 days (four months) to obtain a driver’s licence, going through the normal process. This has in turn, forced many to return to old order of patronising third party agents,mostly FRSC officials. Our reporter, who, recently had a first-hand experience of the process, observed that FRSC officials now run the racketeering rings.
These officials do this in conjunction with their colleagues at the various DLC offices. The reporter first approached an official of the corps, serving in one of its units in Lagos for a new driver’s licence, and the official demanded N15,000 as against the official fee of N6,300.
After the payment was made, the official in question directed the reporter to one of the corps’ DLC offices in the state, where he would meet with another official, who will facilitate the capturing of his biometrics. Curiously, the reporter was advised to get the DLC office before 5 a.m.
on the appointed day, else he stood the risk of not being attended to. On getting to the said office at the agreed time, it was observed that there were scores of other applicants, who were given similar appointments.
They had also passed through some FRSC officials to book an appointment for biometrics capturing. As each applicant mentioned the FRSC official, who is his or her agent, their colleagues at the DLC office ushered him or her into what seemed a waiting room and numbers assigned to the “confirmed” applicants.
Upon the arrival of a senior official, who drove in a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), the generator at the office was put on (this was before 6 a.m.). Some applicants, who did not pass through FRSC officials, were easily fished out and asked to step aside because the DLC officials know the number of applicants to attend to, based on earlier communications with their colleagues (the middle-men).
Without undergoing the necessary tests as required by the process, the applicants – both those for renewal and new acquisition, were ushered into an office, where their biometrics were captured and later issued with temporary licences.
Our reporter also observed that the processes were hurriedly done and completed before 7 a.m., after which the generator was switched off. It was also observed that the officials involved were not officially dressed.
They only got officially dressed up after the early morning ‘operation.’ Other applicants, who shared their experiences at other DLC offices, pointed out that the FRSC lacks the capacity for most of what it is doing, especially the processing and issuance of the driver’s licence.
“For a driver’s licence to be processed, it would take between six and seven months. And why is it so? It is an indication that the corps is biting more than it could chew,” a commercial driver, who plies Sango to Oshodi, Lagos route said.
“If the FRSC has capacity for the production of vehicle number plates and driver’s licence, why is it taking over six months before a licence is processed?” the driver asked. Further investigation by New Telegraph revealed that the FRSC charges between N18,000 and N27,000, at the IRS Ota Centre in Ogun State, which is not receipted for a driver’s licence depending on whether or not the expired licence is still on corps’ database.
More worrisome is that the corps demanded the number of years of the licence he or she is applying for will (three or five years), which also determines how much to be paid. “But why is this so; do they not have the same duration for the licence. What determines the duration an applicant gets or not?
All these should be addressed,” an applicant queried. The question, some applicants asked against this backdrop, is: ‘Why the sudden disappearance of the former driver’s licence registration numbers already captured in FRSC database, if it was not a deliberate action to defraud and extort innocent Nigerians?’ An applicant, Mr. John Idowu, who recalled his experience at the Ota DLC office, said: “When I went there to renew my old licence, they checked their system to confirm whether my licence’s number was still in the system, which was confirmed and I was told to pay N12,000.
But when I got there the third day to make the payment, that was in July last year, I was informed that the my expired licence number was no longer in their system and that I should pay N18,000. “I paid this amount without any receipt issued to that effect.
After payment, I had to wait for another three weeks before I was invited in August for capturing, after which I was issued with a temporary licence to last for the next three months. I used it from August till late March this year, but had to renew it twice before the original licence was ready.”
But, Mr. Komolafe Oluwasegun is not that lucky as he lamented that after almost a year, he is yet to be invited for biometrics capturing. Narrating his ordeal, he said: “I have paid N22,000 for more than seven months now and I have not been invited for biometrics capturing.
But, when I was called last week, I felt relieved. On getting there, I was told that the system was down, and up till now, I am still waiting for their call. “Because of this, I have abandoned my car at home.
I now go to CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 work in commercial buses after I was booked twice by the Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) for which I paid N20,000 for each booking for driving with an expired driving licence.
To worsen the situation, FRSC never issued any temporary document to cover me or to indicate that I have commenced the process despite that I have paid.
“Because of what I suffered in the hands of the VIOs, it is better I leave my car at home and that is exactly what I have resorted to in the last four months.
This is an indication that the FRSC either has no capacity to issue driver’s licence, or is deliberately extorting and frustrating Nigerians. The government has to do something about this. And besides, Nigerians want to know the actual cost for processing the driver’s licence since it now ranges between N18,000 and N27,000.”
Komolafe further bemoaned the conduct of FRSC officials, which according to him, is so precarious, especially in Lagos. “You hardly see them on the expressways to control traffic, except on inner township roads, where they extort road users in the name of checking windscreens, tyres and driver’s licences, among others, which they fail to issue months after payment and capturing,” he said.
Others, who spoke with our reporters, called on the Federal and state Governments to intervene in the shoddy arrangement by decentralising the process.
Responding to the allegations against the corps, FRSC spokesman, Mr. Bisi Kazeem, said all driver’s licences processed in August 2016, had been dispatched to state Board of Internal Revenue offices.
He said: “The official fee for the driver’s licence is N6,300. Let the people stop patronising touts and blame it on the FRSC. We should not use sweeping statements; how can anyone say FRSC men are on the streets extorting money without evidences?
They have name tags; their vehicles have registration numbers and body codes.People should be emphatic about who, where, when and how they extort money from the public.
“The FRSC can patrol all public highways, we only decided as a matter of policy to leave township roads, where there is existence of state traffic agencies.”
On complaints of delay in driver’s licence processing by applicants, he said: “We have sent bulk SMS to applicants concerned. Applicants can send their names and DLs numbers to 08056294054 if they have not received theirs.”
Kazeem also blamed some applicants for some of the lapses in the processing of the licence. “Most applicants do not take extra-pains to search for or demand the processed ones,” he added.
On the variation between the official fee for a driver’s licence and what is being charged at the DLC offices, Kazeem said: “If it is a fresh licence, there is the need for compulsory attendance of driving school and this may be what is added to what you call N18,000.”