Elusive driver's licence - The Nation

By The Citizen

It is no exaggeration to say that it is easy for a camel to pass through the eye of the proverbial needle than it is to obtain a driver's licence, at least in Lagos State. Not only is the process cumbersome, the corruption in the network is pervasive. It costs about N12,000 to renew a licence while people intending to get new licence pay as much as N18,000. Officially, both fresh licences and renewal go for about N 6,450 in the state. Still, this does not guarantee prompt collection of the document, as all kinds of hurdles, some man-made, others technical, are placed on the way, which make it impossible to get the document anytime soon.

Thus, it is possible not to get a driver's licence more than one year after the applicant starts the process. The procedure appears simple, at least on paper: (a) Obtain form at a cost of N40.00 (b) Complete the form correctly and attach two recent passport size photographs;(c) applicant goes to the V.I.O office for Highway Code and driving test (d)  authorised Vehicle Inspection Officer endorses the appropriate section of the form of successful applicants only; (e) applicant proceeds for physical capture of his/her image, thumbprints and signature; (f) the information on the form is loaded into the system. (g) applicant is issued with the driver's licence.

But people who have had cause to go to the centres have different tales of woe to tell. Hardly can anyone who is not ready to grease palms go into the offices and come out with the temporary licence that they give out instead of the real document. Applicants spend eternity on queues that won't move, frowning and wondering why the government bureaucrats decided to inflict such pains on them, even as they see people who are not on the queue enter the offices and come out smiling with the elusive document that those on the queues wait endlessly to get.

But it would appear that the government itself is encouraging corruption in the licensing process. For instance, at the Old Secretariat Office of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Ikeja, Lagos, there is only one functional capturing machine to cater to the needs of the multitudes that throng the place daily in search of driver's licence. It is therefore not unusual for the machine to break down; sometimes there are issues with the network which also slow down operations at the centre. Then, there is only one generator of about 2.3KVA that serves the centre which sometimes breaks down or runs out of fuel.

The question is: why would the government provide only one capturing machine for such a major centre? Why would it allow only one generator in a place where it makes a lot of money? These are some of the inadequacies that some of the workers in the place exploit to give all manner of excuses with which they eventually fleece applicants who are ready to play ball. A visit to the Ikeja centre alone tells the sad tale that the government is either not ready for the kind of process it has laid down for the issuance of driver's licence, or is just being lackadaisical as usual about the arrangement.

And this is bad; it is bad in that it has encouraged the incidence of fake driver's licence, many of which were obtained from supposedly genuine centres. There is nothing wrong in capturing the biometrics of people who want driver's licence. As a matter of fact, this is good; indeed, it is the practice in many parts of the world, But then, the government must provide all the requirements to facilitate the process, otherwise, it would seem as if it deliberately set out to punish Nigerians or open up avenues for people in charge of issuing the licences to make money off the applicants.