You could almost hear the loud phew of relieve reverberate across Lagos State upon their recent banishment; though it may be for a while. Last week, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State rather exasperatedly announced the temporary suspension of the dreaded Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIOs from Lagos roads.
That the report of the initial action was not quite clear and needed disambiguation was a sign that the governor’s ears were probably bursting with complaints. It had read that Gov. Ambode banned VIOs from Lagos roads and it had seemed like they had been completely banished from operating in the state.
But a further announcement had clarified that indeed, the entire transport ministry was undergoing restructuring and that included the VIOs. They are required to vacate the state’s roads and embark on a compulsory retraining regimen. Their duties would be more technologically driven henceforth and they would be expected to be humane and indeed wear a human face when they return to the roads.
Shall we say it was just about time that the Lagos State government acted on what had become a much depraved agency? It could rightly be argued that that section of the transport ministry had entirely forgotten its raison d’etre, which is to ensure that as much as possible, only roadworthy vehicles plied the roads.
But on the contrary, the agency was only keen on extorting motorists, especially the gullible and vulnerable ones. They would station themselves at awkward sections of the road; often constricting the lanes thereby causing serious traffic snarl during work hours. They were known to bypass or overlook rickety and not so roadworthy vehicles only to apprehend near-new ones. There was indeed, no method to their menace.
They had become arrogant and oppressive with no iota of empathy for motorists. Many are daily debarred from getting to work or pursuing their legitimate businesses on account of such minor infringement like a cracked rear lamp. Once vehicles are railroaded into their yards, tyres are immediately deflated and motorists are put through a most tortuous hurdle of paying heavy fines and remedying the situation. Then the ‘captured’ victims return to have their tyres reflated at cut-throat rate by ‘resident’ vulcanizers working in cahoots with the VIOs.
A couple of years ago, a taxi driver committed suicide by setting himself ablaze because the VIOs impounded his vehicle and slammed him a huge penalty. The driver was said to be already much troubled as he was behind schedule on the car’s lease payments. Recently, a ruckus erupted as a car that was impounded and kept in the VIOs’ yard got burnt and officials insisted the vehicle owner set his car ablaze.
This, it is believed, was the final trigger that moved the governor to initiate a discreet inquiry into the modus operandi of the VIOs. The report would have been filled with overwhelming filth and sleaze that prompted the governor to act with what is known as ‘immediate effect.’
Apart from the fact that Lagos, which is working strenuously to live up to its billing as a modern megacity, cannot afford an illiterate traffic agency; it is also quite salutary that Governor Ambode has shown his unflinching penchant for public service rendered with decorum and humility.
Recall that his first act in government upon inception of office was the ‘taming’ of the hitherto notoriously unruly and highhanded Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) officials. It is a testimony to the governor’s intolerance for official high-handedness in public office that LASTMA officials are now more focused on directing traffic than ambushing supposed offenders. And traffic flows better in Lagos today.
We commend the move to re-orientate the personnel and retool the operations of the state’s Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS). It is quite timely.