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Goodbye To ‘Impounded Vehicle’ Regime, As ICT Era Takes Off In Lagos

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POLICE-9

HOW many police stations have you visited in Nigeria? What’s your candid opinion about the environment where the officers operate? This is not about poor infrastructure for the police that has become a sort of institutional quandary. It’s about the number of impounded and abandoned vehicles that litter police stations across the country.  

    Have you ever been involved in a motor accident case that ended up in a police station? What was your experience like? Were you eventually charged to court and the accidented vehicle presented as exhibit? How many of these unfortunate Nigerians get to recover their vehicles intact? Well, the reality is that most of these impounded vehicles end up as scraps or auctioned at a very ridiculous rate.

    When you are close to a police station in Nigeria, chances are that you would have observed this development. Aside from their buildings and walls, which are usually painted in police official colours, and maybe their signposts, the sight of vehicles impounded by the officers as exhibits, tell you where you are. In most cases, these abandoned vehicles, including old, rickety police patrol vans, practically occupy the parking lot, forcing visitors to park their cars poles away from the station. At times, the parking extends into the streets, making vehicular traffic difficult; surely people living around police stations should be familiar with this ugly sight.

   Abandoned vehicles serve as avenues for dumping of refuse, which constitutes environmental challenges to the society. Nearby residents and road users see them as refuse bins, where they can discard their wastes. So, it is common to see commuters throwing banana peels and ‘pure’ water sachets in abandoned vehicles. 

    Besides, most abandoned vehicles are potential homes for the mentally ill, who go out in the morning and return at dusk to pass the night. This is common along expressways and within cities, towns and streets. Sometimes, miscreants and street urchins take turn to utilise the facility in carrying out their nefarious activities. In the neighbourhood, they could become home to reptiles and other dangerous animals, which may portend danger to residents of that area. This is common in villages and cities such as Lagos. 

   Human lives are greatly endangered by broken-down vehicles, as they narrow the space on roads and force pedestrians to make use of service lanes, leaving them at the mercy of reckless drivers and lawless Okada riders. Most importantly, they deface the beauty of the environment.

   To further boost the state’s commitment to securing the lives and property of residents and tourists, the Lagos State government, through the state’s Ministry of Science and Technology, recently embarked on a project that will enable the state government set up ICT Centres in 100 police stations across the state. Apart from helping the police to keep detailed record of exhibits, the centres will also help clean up the environment where policemen carry out their duties. 

    At the formal handover of a fully furnished ICT Resource Centre to the Area ‘C’ Command of the Nigeria Police, Surulere, Fashola gave assurance of his government’s resolve to support the police in safeguarding lives and properties in the state. He urged the officers not to relent in their efforts to perform their duties professionally, especially as the country prepares for the 2015 general elections. 

   According to the governor, the ICT Centres would essentially help the police to decongest the stations of exhibits, especially abandoned vehicles and help improve the image and outlook of police stations.

   Fashola also noted that, “in all the time that I practised in court, I can’t recall one case in which those vehicles were brought to court as exhibits. So, the question is, why are we keeping them? Why don’t we just take enough photographs of all the angles of the vehicles and release them on bond to the owners, that they will produce them whenever they are needed in court.” 

  Each of the centres boasts of two computers and trained personnel to man the accessories, including a digital camera, Digital Assert Management Systems Software (DAMS) and two KW solar installations. Records of all exhibits in police stations across the state will be captured and stored in the computers’ databases for ease of access and retrieval of relevant exhibits for effective prosecution of all cases.  

  “If you do this, many things will change. First, the congestion around your environment will change, making it cleaner. Secondly, in some police stations, these vehicles take up half of the road. So, traffic will move if you do this. More importantly, the vehicle owner, who you deprive of his vehicle, will feel happier to deal with you. Often times, that’s their only vehicle and it’s at police station. So, a vehicle owner suddenly becomes someone compelled to take public transport; he can’t be a happy person,” he added. 

  Describing the initiative as a trend setting that should be replicated across the country, Ajuluchukwu Ugo Okeke said, “this is good governance, considering the degrading impact of the abandoned vehicles on the environment and the destruction visited on the beautiful police neighbourhoods all around Lagos State. I’m sure with proper enlightenment campaign, people’s mindset will change over time. On the part of the police, carefulness in handling such sophisticated equipment is needed. Seeing this all over Nigeria will help handle the ugly litter of accident vehicles across Nigeria’s police stations.”

   For Tope Ajayi, a Lagos-based PR practitioner, this is a novel idea in criminal justice administration.

   “This will surely do many things for the citizens. Firstly, it will reduce the burden of having vehicles impounded in police stations for weeks. It means after pictures have been taken, the police can rely on the pictures as evidence, while the vehicle owners can go ahead to fix their vehicles.

 “Many police stations dump accident vehicles in the neighbourhood roads for months and this causes more accidents. But with this new development, situations like this will be a thing of the past,” he said.

     On his part, Sunday Idowu noted that the policy would reduce the level of wastage that comes with accident.

   “When you count the number of vehicles abandoned at police stations across the country, as well as the naira and kobo involved, then you will understand the level of wastage involved here. The accident has happened, so, I don’t see the need to continue keeping the vehicles in police custody, as it doesn’t change anything. We only hope the police will comply,” he said.

   While commending the initiative, Chukwuma Nwosu called on the police to ensure that this advancement does not create room for greedy officers to enrich themselves.


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