The Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC)’s insistence on National Identification Number (NIN) for issuance of driver’s licence and vehicle registration is bringing sanity and credibility to the process, although problems remain, writes ROBERT EGBE
Couldn’t drive, but wanted a driver’s license? Or you just needed to renew an expired one?Nigerians will remember how it used to be: with the right amount of cash to an official or their proxies hanging outside Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) buildings, anything was possible.
But these days, things are fast changing, especially with the ongoing drive to mainstream the National Identification Number (NIN) number in everyday official transactions.
Recently, the Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi presented the report of the Committee on Citizens Data Management and Harmonisation to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The report emphasised that the FRSC had made NIN compulsory for processing and issuance of driver’s license.
The move made a lot of sense, because the national driver’s license is, incontrovertibly, not just a permit or authorisation to drive a vehicle on Nigerian roads but also a highly valued identification and security document.
National Driver’s Licence Scheme
The National Driver’s Licence Scheme (NDLS) was introduced in 1990. Since then, it has evolved with successive FRSC leaderships to make such a document relevant to national development.
The evolution involves harmonising and standardising the issuance of driver’s licence and vehicle number plates in the country for the purpose of ensuring security, control and safety.
The FRSC noted that the old licensing regime was characterised by different types of Driver’s Licences, irregularity in data of applicants on licenses from state to state and inconsistency in data capture arising from different formats deployed from state to state, among other challenges.
The situation before the Federal Government via the National Executive Council adopted the driver’s licence and the related vehicle number plate as security documents, and their launch by former President Goodluck Jonathan on September 2, 2011, was simply dysfunctional and problematic.
A former FRSC Corps Marshal, Osita Chidoka, described it thus: “Staff on patrol had no ability to verify a driver’s licence, no capacity to check the authenticity of a number plate, no ability to know if an offender had been booked before for any offence by another patrol team.
More worrisome, FRSC was regularly inundated with requests by foreign jurisdictions to verify a driver’s licence and also locally the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC and Police made routine requests for plate number verification or for evidence in court.”
Thus, the NDLS was, among others, intended to manage crisis of issuance and administration of driver’s licence that will check complaints on the genuineness of the document and various allegation of corruption in the issuance.
Challenges of the system
But despite the evolution of the system, the report observed that problems, including network hitches and downtime, identity theft, corruption, etc, remain.
It however explained how these are being tackled.
Oyeyemi lamented that problems surrounding the production of the driver’s license, was being exploited by dishonest persons in their attempt to corrupt the driver’s licence issuance process.
But he expressed confidence that that using NIN would check corruption in the production chain of the document.
Harping on the need to improve on the driver’s licence production he pledged the FRSC’s commitment to bringing to bear the full weight of the commission’s regulations in ensuring discipline.
“To curb corruption in the driver’s licence production chain, NIN is now mandatory for any one applying for the licence.
“We are hopeful that if you want to renew your licence or you want to get a new one, it is going to be compulsory that you get a NIN before you proceed,” he said.
Why related agencies must join in
But the FRSC alone cannot solve the problem. Other agencies must buy-in, especially as it relates to vehicle registration.
Oyeyemi noted that the requirement of NIN would also apply to vehicle registration, adding that Nigeria, like many other countries, was experiencing challenges relating to identity theft.
This, he explained, required that related agencies must firm-up their identity systems such that all avenues of breaches would be effectively closed.
Oyeyemi said: “Without a NIN, you cannot continue with any vehicle registration. This is also to ensure that the correct information is provided.
“For instance, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has already adhered to this by ensuring that NIN is compulsory when applying for international passport or visa.
“So, this is very important to the FRSC as it would ease the processing of the driver’s licence to avoid double identity as well.
“This is also part of efforts we are putting in place to fight corruption and this is also a major way to curb crime as well because we have a lot of people that have different identities.
“Imagine you go to NIS, you use a different name, you go to bank, you have a different name, you visit FRSC, you have another name, even with MTN or other networks, you have another.
“Now, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) will play their role by ensuring that everyone has the NIN so as to avoid double identity and this will be automatically imported to our site to ease the production of the driver’s licence.”
More work stations opened nationwide
The FRSC boss explained that the corps has 37 DLCs and 217 work stations nationwide with the intent to expand and make the processing centres perform effectively such that the expansion and the entire programme could be justifiable.
Oyeyemi said: “Recent report of network hitches and downtime was rampant but it has been addressed with the appropriate vendors so as to keep the scheme running hitch-free.
“All DLCs must take advantage of the effective network to improve on service delivery.
“I hereby reiterate the commitment of management towards the continuous maintenance and upgrade of all our platforms to constantly meet with the demands of the contemporary society.
“Management has decided to expand the scope of coverage nationwide, hence 571 station offices have been established signalling that the presence of FRSC has extended to all local government areas of the federation, with the exception of riverine areas.
“By implication, road safety education and advocacy has been taken to the grassroots. The corps data gathering and general data management will be enhanced to give better policy advice to government on road transport matters,’’ he said.
Problem of extortion
Corps Public Education Officer Bisi Kazeem, warned FRSC personnel against extortion or any other sharp practices that could tarnish the image of the corps.
Kazeem said that FRSC would not hesitate to punish any personnel found extorting driver’s licence applicants.
He said that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) arrested 25 Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) on alleged drivers’ licence and vehicle particulars’ fraud in August.
Kazeem also said that the reports concerning the issue of extortion was getting alarming so much so that the FRSC collaborated with the ICPC and Department of Security Service (DSS) to check it.
“They deployed technology and made the arrest. The exercise will be sustained to rid the corps of bad eggs.
“We abhor corrupt tendencies. There are internal mechanisms — the Corps Marshal Monitoring Unit and Surveillance and intelligence Unit.
“There are also zonal commanding officers unit of surveillance and monitoring, sector commander’s unit, all aimed at checking excesses of marshals.
“You will realise from the report that it was a joint effort. We have always been initiating and calling for all hands to be on deck to rid our activities of corrupt tendencies.
“This is not also different. The indicted officers are already placed on interdiction which implies the payment of half of their salary until their cases are disposed of,’’ he said.
Mr Wadata Bodinga, Director, Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), Abuja, urged Nigerians to use the agency’s self-service centres for vehicle papers registration and renewal and stop going through touts and agents.
Bodinga said that the agency’s self-service system via www.selfservice.drts.gov.ng eliminates physical contacts.
“You can renew your vehicle particulars and even pay for your fines at anytime, anywhere with just a click on your mobile phone handset, laptop or iPad.
“All you need to do is to have data on your device, log on to the service address and follow the instructions to the end.
“When you do this, you have the confidence that you are paying directly to the government.
“By so doing, it is optional if you decide to seek the assistance of either touts or agents it whosoever, but an easier, more reliable option has been made available,’’ he said.