By Samuel Nwite
The water was deep like a fishpond with mound corridors created by vehicular movement. Your vehicle tyres could tell in mud colors that they are not pleased, and so is the stained car struggling to swim through to your destination. You could hear other vehicles complain in squeaking and creaking voices. It’s more like a volcano, but they called it road.
Right after the pond is a Road Traffic Officer, waving you to pull over. As you take your foot off the gas and wheel to the side of the road, he stands by the window and asks: “where is your roadworthiness”? Your anguish deepens as you search through your car documents, looking for ‘roadworthiness’ where there is no road. That’s the aberration that we have been forced to embrace in Nigeria.
“Roadworthiness is a property or ability of a car, bus, truck or any kind of automobile to be in a suitable operating condition or meeting acceptable standards for safe driving and transport of people, baggage or cargo in roads or streets.”
This vehicle requirement has enabled standards for safe driving by reducing the chances of vehicles breaking down on the roads to cause obstruction, and minimizing automobile emission. But that’s in first and second world countries, in third world countries like Nigeria, it’s only a means of generating revenue for the governments and extortion for the enforcement agents.
For instance, in Lagos State, the cost of roadworthiness is N5, 200 for an average car, multiplied by about 5.500 million vehicles registered in Lagos, that’s a whopping 286 billion in revenue. Other states generate substantial revenues also according to their roadworthiness cost and the number of vehicles registered and renewed in the state at its expiration. Most Nigerians have no problems paying these fees, they only have problems with the roads they are paying for its worthiness.
Apart from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), there is no other state in Nigeria that could boast of roads that justify the roadworthiness law. A few good roads maybe, in the capital cities, and the rest are between small and large potholes, death traps and not-motor-able. What this means is that a brand new car that plied Nigerian roads on its first time, may not pass a road worthiness test after. It’s a brunt that motorists have swallowed whole because they don’t have choice.
John, (not real name) an Uber Driver narrated his bitter experience on Apapa-Oshodi expressway. He said, “It was late at night, and I was driving home for the day. Just after Cele Bus Stop, there’s a hole big enough to swallow a car whole, I didn’t see it on time, so it was too late before I stepped on the brake. And by the sound, I knew I was not going to drive the car home.”
“A toying van appeared from nowhere to offer his service, I had no choice but to accept his offer. Although I was mad at the government, I was glad I got out unhurt.”
He is not the only one, some others have had worse experiences. Darlington, a Facebook user shared his near death ordeal on Benin-Ore expressway. He posted, “Help me thank God, my family and I have just survived a giant pothole. Our car tumbled twice, it’s a miracle that we got out alive. A toying van took us home.” There is always a toying van on standby because they figured out they will be victims of portholes.
But not all the victims were that fortunate to make it. The 2017 Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) accidents data indicated that over 100 deaths were as result of bad roads. Sadly, there is no one being held accountable, there is no one paying for the evitable auto crashes enabled by poor road infrastructure. Same can’t be said when traffic officers catch you driving a car without roadworthiness certification. Your car will be impounded, you will be fined heavily or extorted proportionately.
The revenue generation from roadworthiness fees in high populated states like Lagos is enough to rid the roads of potholes. Alas, the concept of roadworthiness has been rationalized in Nigeria to the detriment of all road users. The roads are not vehicle worthy, and cars and their owners are paying the high price. About the 121, 000-mile network of roads in Nigeria, only a few have been bestowed with the needed maintenance that will enhance automobile performance and life. Other consequences include loss of manpower in traffic gridlocks resulting from bad roads. And that is no good news to Nigeria’s wobbling economy. Over N450 billion is lost annually to bad roads through goods and services perishing in accidents caused by debilitated roads.
Roadworthiness certification of vehicles is a safety practice obtainable in many parts of the world that have helped to keep the environment clean and safe. The main purpose shouldn’t be to generate revenue for the governments. So the Nigerian governments should understand that vehicle-worthy roads beget roadworthy vehicles.