Corruption, agony, bedlam at Lagos vehicle inspection centres
Perhaps, the state government meant well with the enforcement of vehicle inspection for safer roads. But mandating private vehicles to queue up in a few inspection centres is a nasty approach to a fair policy. BENJAMIN ALADE reports that the dead end at inspection centres has made an urgent review of the initiative very compelling.
For motorists that have thus far attempted to comply with the vehicle inspection policy in Lagos metropolis, only one question agitates the mind: how tenable is it that the handlers at the Ministry of Transportation are yet to think through a civilised approach to a policy that is as old as the Lagos Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS)?
Apparently coming too late to its own party, the VIS last year rolled out a plan to enforce the roadworthiness certification that required owners to submit their vehicles for inspection at any of the 26 dedicated Lagos Computerised Vehicle Inspection Centres (LACVIS).
Perhaps the VIS got its maths wrong on over five million cars in the megacity. It underestimated the traffic pool of vehicles that would show up at the centres, thereby leading to unwieldy traffic snarls, entry-gate chaos and unnecessary frustration for the citizenry.
The Guardian’s visit to some of the centres at Cele, PWD yard, Bolade Oshodi, Anthony, and Ojodu has been revealing in the last two weeks, with both rich and poor beckoning on the government to rethink the skewed policy.
Globally, a routine vehicle inspection is a standard to improve road safety. With the use of technology, the drive-through process has turned seamless and could be done even on the way to work for one that has a couple of minutes to spare.
But in Lagos, an average vehicle inspection requires between five to 12 hours! Curiously, the current predatory programme is targeted at private owners that have none of such luxury of time.
The Cele LACVIS centre is already a tough choice for residents. The centre, which services motorists in Ejigbo, Festac, Isolo, Ikotun, Idimu, and Mile two among others, has consistently had its traffic snarl snaking across the Cele Bridge, extending over a mile stretch from the gate.
“To beat the traffic, I had to leave home at 4 a.m.,” a motorist said.
For those caught in the snarl and desperate to have an inspection done quickly after hours of waiting, there are dedicated VIS officers to offer “express service” at an extra fee of N5000.
A motorist, Oscar Boniface, said: “I have been here for more than three hours now trying to get to the premises and still on the road. It is not really bad but the Nigerian factor is there, where some of the officials would enter into the car as if they are part of the staff working there, before you know they navigate and go inside. That has slowed down the queue.
“This is my first time; when I tried to renew the road’s worthiness, they said until I go for a computerised inspection, they can’t issue me the certificate. I have paid already. According to what I was told, if there is much to repair, they will ask me to go and repair it and come back for review,” he said.
At the PWD yard that had traffic spillover down the main road, motorists waited endlessly too.
A motorist, Abayomi, said he had been at the centre since 8 a.m. and only had his vehicle inspected at 1:15 pm.
“The computer picked a fault in the brake system and I will fix it. That is fair. But the issue is, should anyone have to wait that long for a simple problem that can be detected at a filling station’s Lube Bay? Something must be wrong with our thinking process,” he said.
At Bolade Oshodi centre, just like PWD yard, the centre is congested with long queues. Motorists that arrived in the morning were attended to by 1:40 pm. Although the Oshodi centre appeared more spacious with two inspection spots, vehicles were seen parked inside the compound for inspection.
Another motorist, Paul said: “I have been here since morning, hoping to get inspected. I think the operators need to provide more facilities to check the huge number of vehicles being parked at each centre.”
At Anthony centre, vehicles were seen parked outside the premises as the compound could only accommodate 10 vehicles at a go.
Vehicles parked were being monitored by motorists themselves, as there was no security.
However, motorists who are billed to renew their roadworthiness certificate have called on Lagos Computerised Vehicle Inspection Service (LACVIS) to open more centres to accommodate more vehicle owners and alleviate the long queues they experience.
Motorists who spoke with The Guardian said LACVIS must make more computerised centres available within vicinities while making the process faster.
For them, if there are more computerised centres in all areas, it will make the process faster and more convenient for motorists.
Findings showed that the VIO officials allocate numbers to motorists on a daily basis. Despite the number of vehicles visiting the centres for tests, only about 50 tags were allotted for daily operation at the Cele centre.
Another motorist, Isaac Elliot, said for the government to make life easier, “they need to allocate these services to different local governments. This one per each local council is stressful.”
A resident, Peter at the Cele centre said: “I came here around 10 a.m. and till now 2:15 p.m, my vehicle is yet to be tested. The way I see it, I don’t know the possibility of them expecting the whole of private cars in Lagos, with the number of vehicles, to participate in this exercise considering the number of vehicles in the city. I expect that all the VIO offices should have this computerised system that would make it easier for people.”
Another angry motorist, Kingsley Diala, said: “I have been in the queue since 7:30 a.m. In all honesty, the process is not fair. We have been here since morning but some people are paying extra money from N2000 to N5000 just to go inside and get inspected. We that refused to pay are sitting in the line. That is the problem we are facing at the Cele centre.
Another motorist identified as Paulinus, said: “The queue at the Cele centre has been stagnant, we haven’t moved for over two hours. Imagine we have been here since morning and this is 2:30 p.m. For this to be convenient, they should have made the Ejigbo office-ready before they now say all vehicles should come for an inspection.
“It would have made more sense again if all these officials did not manoeuver the queues. I am happy you saw one of the shunt line. It would have made more sense if corruption was not in place,” he said.
An official of the VIS, who wants to be anonymous, said the process will improve soon.
He said: “The only thing we are introducing now is for people to come for an inspection. Once you approach any VIO office, we would issue you a referral note, and you go for the inspection at the LACVIS office within 30 days. Once you get there, your vehicle will be inspected. Once you pass the test, the system will automatically print your certificate.”
He said the VIS currently has 26 test centres with a mobile testing centre presently at Victoria Island. “We are planning to have 57 centres statewide.”
Speaking on the long queues for inspection at the centres, he said: “We are working on it; some centres are under-utilised as we speak. Like Badagry now, we have centres at Epe; we have centres at Agbowa. We have another centre in Ikorodu. Some people choose to do it within the city, whereas you can do it anywhere.”