The Farcical Process of Drivers Licensing in Nigeria
To be clear, drivers licensing falls within the purview of the Motor Vehicle Administration Agency. The Agency’s webpage lists the Issuance and renewal (in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Corps) of Motor vehicle licenses, local Driving License, Learner’s Permit, and Certificate of Roadworthiness as some of its primary functions. Theoretically, temporary licenses are issued within three working days, while the “full driver’s license is issued immediately after expiration of temporary license”. Aside the high level of dishonesty that characterizes this process, there is no mention of driving tests or the Vehicle Inspection Officers who are to test prospective drivers and issue Certificates of Competence. Like many other government policies, the statutory responsibilities of the VIO and the Board of Internal Revenue (with regards to drivers licensing) is well-written; the fault is in our stars. Although test forms are provided, all that is required is for you to pay what is quoted and you’ll score 75% on a non-existent test. This is an alarming level of incompetence and disregard for public safety.
Some drivers would fail an eye test, but they have licenses. Some ‘professional’ drivers, on getting to a junction, indicate that they are headed ‘straight’ by turning on the hazard lights. Some even speed up at zebra crossings (an Okada rider once told me that he always thought zebra crossings were adverts for a product, so speeding up was his way of showing defiance to the authorities). Of course, they haven’t read the Highway Code. Why should they? There are no consequences. There are further dimensions to this problem, not least of which is the fact that Nigerians use their licenses abroad. It significantly dents our collective reputation when a Nigerian is involved in an accident abroad and it turns out in a court case that he has never read the Highway Code. Picture that as one more rivet on Nigeria’s single story plaque. Surely, there must be some correlation between the high rate of accidents on our roads and the alarming number of unqualified drivers. The phrase may be hackneyed, but something needs to be done.
In addition to the enhancement of public safety, a standardized licensing system would create lots of employment opportunities (temporary and full-time). Prospective applicants will have to take drivers education courses (which may be incorporated in the secondary school curriculum or taken independently); tests (written and practical) would be objectively administered by qualified personnel; other test forms (such as visual presentations and simulations) will be made available for non-educated applicants; additional income generation for software developers, test administrators, driving tutors and from test fees (if applicable). Furthermore, this would (hopefully) better educate prospective drivers about road safety and concern for other road users.
Issuing the licenses has proven to be a big undertaking for states in the United States of America. In Connecticut, the state Department of Motor Vehicles hired 55 temporary employees and issued 70,000 licenses to undocumented immigrants between May and September 2015. This implies that if a license is valued at #8,000, the state generated about #560 million in five months. If properly done, the possibilities are almost endless. States can generate enough income to become a little more self-sustaining (provided the ‘demon’ of rapacity is exorcised).
Drivers licensing is a big deal; in fact, it is a matter of national security. If nothing else, it should at least ensure that a significant majority of drivers have common sense.
 According to data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, 298,319 drivers’ licenses were processed in Lagos State alone in 2015. This amounts to an average of 24,860 drivers’ licenses per month. At #6,500, that comes to nearly #162 million per month.