Neglected by government, betrayed by a self-serving National Assembly and spurned by the judiciary whose leading lights have taken side with economic and political fraudsters with access to enough state funds to buy justice, ordinary Nigerians, have long come to terms with the absence of government in their lives. They provide their own water, generate their own electricity, and dispose off their refuse and those who can afford it, avoid government schools and hospitals.
They are only remembered by government on those occasions when needed to make additional sacrifices such as during the president’s fuel pump price increase, or in recent times when called upon to appeal to striking university teachers whose earned allowances government claimed it has no funds to pay; and finally when needed as sporadic participants to give legitimacy to every four years’ rituals called elections where their votes hardly count. Nigerians have long given up the illusion of having anyone protecting their interest. PDP shameless elders only intervene to preside over how the party buccaneers settle quarrels over sharing of money and offices. Our internet services are the slowest yet the most expensive in the world. Our telephone service providers are declaring outrageous profits that will make their counterparts in Europe green with envy in spite of their shoddy services and PHCN charges consumers N50, 000 and above for meters they don’t own and on which they pay monthly service charges which are discountenanced when such metres require repair or replacement.
‘Suffering and smiling’ (apology to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) ordinary Nigerians have carried on their burden with philosophical strength of mind and will. In the last one year, many have engaged in daily rituals of going to queue up at the FRSC Ojudu headquarters to use the only available ‘capturing machine’ in an effort to obey without questioning, FRSC’s illegal imposition of double taxation in the guise of registration of new plate numbers and securing the new drivers license.
Interviewed on a Channel Television programme last week, Osita Chidoka, the Corps Marshall, was all in his elements as he laboured with little success trying to justify the new number plate and drivers licence scheme which he said was introduced “to harmonise, standardise and unify all modes of licensing of drivers and vehicles so as to involve a better road culture and efficient data management”.
For the above stated objective, overburdened Nigerians with existing vehicle plate numbers are being called upon to part with about N15,000. If a man paid the prevailing rate to register a plate number for his vehicle five years back, the least expected of any agency that has the interest of the people at heart is to replace the old number plate with the new one at no cost to the citizen.
If a car owner decides to sell his car, the Corps Marshal says such a person loses his old plate number to government without refund while the new buyer will now register a new plate number. Why not just change the ownership of the plate number at no cost to the new owner instead of rendering it useless to both the old and the new owner of the vehicle?
Chidoka says there will be a linkage between the new car plate number and drivers licence and that we can use the new licence to validate national ID card. How about those who don’t have cars or those who don’t know the number of cars in their garages? Is it not a common knowledge that the last three attempts by PDP government to tackle the ID card issue were marred by corruption and scandals that led to the jailing of a minister? It appears Corps Marshal would hold on
to any straw to justify a callous imposition of double taxation on helpless Nigerians.
The Corps Marshal has other ambitions. The new license and vehicle plate registration, he said will help custom to improve on its revenue drive and prevent smuggled vehicles from being registered. But it is common knowledge even if the Corps Marshal pretends not to know, that vehicles are smuggled in daily through our porous borders manned by the same custom he set out to aid. And we all know that for every smuggled car, there are forged custom papers purportedly emanating
from Apapa /Tin Can Ports, duly signed and stamped, accompanied with stamped police report, all in one day, an exercise that would ordinarily take over a week. In his desperate bid to generate revenue, he forgot to tell us how this double taxation of Nigerians will checkmate this practice involving customs, police and sometimes road safety officials.
There is also something in the scheme for the insurance firms. He now wants human beings who own the vehicles to be insured as against the current practice which is the other way round. His preference he says is comprehensive insurance. But he was silent on how he intends to ensure insurance firms fulfil their obligations to their clients which was what in the first place drove people to opt for a Third Party or simply put their fate in God. Many who are unable to afford cost of comprehensive insurance especially among the Pentecostals simply cover their cars with blood of Jesus, other Christians and their Muslim brothers, the rosary and tesbiu while the traditionalists wade off evil forces with ‘African juju’. If a man buys a N400, 000 used car and decides to do a Third Party insurance because that is what he could afford, why must it be the business of FRSC to direct otherwise? Whose interest is the Corps Marshal protecting, Nigerians or insurance firms?
Chidoka, who has not told Nigerians how to bring down the 1,375 casualty figure recorded between February and September this year, who has not addressed the unwholesome activities of some of his men, including those involved in issuance of fake driving licenses in the past, hiding at obscured corners on Lagos roads to intimidate and negotiate with motorists with minor offences, but who has
demonstrated his passionate commitment to raising revenue profile of government through customs and insurance firms, says he is not engaged in revenue drive. But what other name do we assign to a scheme that is extracting about N15, 000 from millions of Nigerians who have existing registered plate numbers?
If we assume Lagos with an estimated population of 16 million has five million registered vehicles, at an average of 15,000, the FRSC is set to extract about N75billion from Lagos vehicle owners who never bargained for double taxation. Even if FRSC turns out to be better than other government revenue generating agencies the Senate had accused of failing to transfer collected revenues to the federation account, or FRSC agrees to subject itself to auditing unlike the 194 MDAs the Auditor-General accused of not subjecting themselves to auditing last year, we will still not be able to guarantee judicious use of proceeds of this blood money. After all, ours is a nation where no one knows the specific projects the foreign loans taken on our behalf and which our children will have to pay back are used to execute.
It is therefore difficult to fault the argument of cynical Nigerians who see FRSC’s cruel imposition of an illegal double taxation on helpless Nigerians, despite the initial misgivings expressed by a National Assembly known to give only a lip service to issues that concern the well-being of our people, as part of the MDAs’ desperate efforts to raise funds for the 2015 election, in the same manner phantom fuel subsidy was used to finance the 2011 election. The very ‘creative’ PDP ruling party and its spin doctors see nothing abnormal in reaping where they did not sow, or immoral in living and surviving on the sweat and blood of the poor and helpless.