Motorists worry as VIOs return to Lagos roads
For a long time, motorists in Lagos State were “terrorised” by operatives of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), whose modus operandi seems to appeal only to them.But in early May 2017, it was reported that the state government had ordered the VIO officers off the streets after being inundated with complaints by motorists and members of the public.
As motorists heaved a sighed of relief, the counter argument was that they were taken off the road for re-training in order for them to be more civil in their engagements with the public. Many motorists were happy to have the VIO officers off the streets, no matter how brief a period it was.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was to later confirm that the ban was permanent. “Let me use this opportunity to reiterate that Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) have been asked to stay off our roads permanently. We also advise the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to stay on the fringes, and highways and not on the main streets of Lagos,” he said at a project commissioning at Ojodu area of the state.
According to Ambode, the ban became important because government noticed that VIO activities contributed immensely to traffic challenges on Lagos roads, hence the need to do away with them in order to ensure free flow of traffic. He added that the respective government agencies would continue to do their jobs, but with the aid of new technology, which would be deployed to track and monitor vehicle registration and certifications.
After only 22 months, the VIO officers are back this time more aggressively than before. There is nothing to show that they were taken for some training to make them more civil in handling motorists. They carry out indiscriminate stoppage of cars in odd places, leading to traffic snarl and in some cases crashes. Apart from this, the VIOs, motorists allege, are highhanded in the discharge of their duties, a development that get them into trouble with members of the public routinely.
It was such indiscretion that sent them home for nearly two years, when a Honda Accord car belonging to Oluwadamilare Afolarin got burnt in questionable circumstances, with the owner and the VIO officers accusing each other of being responsible. Afolarin’s vehicle with registration number AKD 367 BG was impounded by the VIOs at their Eti-Osa office after it was spotted with a cracked windscreen. For this, he was fined the sum of N80, 000.
As he rallied round to source for funds to pay the fine, he got a call from one of the VIOs that his car had got burnt. Afolarin was prevailed on to accept the sum of N200, 000 as compensation, which he rejected outright. It was after that they accused him of burning his car. This led to Afolarin seeking help through the media. When Gov Ambode got whiff of the incident through the media, he was unhappy and consequently ordered that VIOs should permanently vacate the roads.
A commercial driver, Adisa Adebayo, who admits to seeing VIOs a bit more regularly of late, urged the state government to step up its game by allowing technology do the job, instead of once again allowing the men to return to harassing motorists. On why he wants them off Lagos roads permanently, he said they constitute a menace and were very crude in their approach to work.
“The VIOs that I encountered were without any standard procedures in their work, and no warnings were issued for any infraction whatsoever. All they did was impound cars at the slightest opportunity, and thereafter slam the owners with a huge fine, and until the fine was paid, your vehicle would be in their custody. Most times motorists had to negotiate the fine with them. This is because they are not even remitting the money they make to the government, and motorists are also not even aware of how much each fine is officially,” he said.
Another motorist, Mrs. Adebimpe Adesoji pleaded with the state government not to allow the VIOs return to the roads, adding that they constitute a pain in the neck of many residents of the state. She further alleged that whatever genuine role the government saddled the agency with ab initio had been eroded by the brazen extortion and exploitation unleashed on motorists.She praised Governor Ambode for having the courage to take them off the streets saying, “we had peace since they left, let them not return,” she added.
The Ministry of Transport says the agency has not defied government’s directive. According to the ministry, the officers are working in line with the directive of the Governor as they now have little or no contact with motorists, but are now deploying technology in their operations, a development, which helps them to track down offending motorists without necessarily having contact with them.But the officers motorists complained about do not deploy any technology. They are the same old VIOs.
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