Who authorised the Nigeria Police Force to introduce a "biometric central motor registration" (BCMR) in the country? Nigerian motorists were given barely one week to prepare for the extortion billed to have started on September 16. Each motorist is to pay N3, 500 for the "new system" which the police claim is designed to prevent car theft, kidnapping and terrorism. This heist is coming barely two weeks to the deadline for purchase of the Federal Road Safety Commission's new number plates and biometric driver's licence, both of which costs each motorist between N25, 000 and N50, 000.
The National Assembly has yet to pass a legislation authorising the FRSC to extort this huge sum from each of more than 10 million vehicle owners in the country. As to the police's proposal, it has not even been tabled before the legislature. Has Nigeria become such a lawless jungle? Is it now easy for any agency to extort money from Nigerians under the pretext of fighting armed robbers or terrorists?
These agencies seem to be following in the footsteps of NEPA/PHCN that collects bills for power not supplied. Yet, none of them has played any significant role in tracking and arresting car snatchers and other criminals. Vehicles' chassis and engine numbers are registered every day without anybody in the agencies caring to see the car being registered. Criminals routinely change stolen vehicles' numbers at several places our security agents have not discovered.
About two years ago, certain road marshals were extorting N2, 000 from each motorist in Abuja for a device they claimed would store all of a car's details electronically. That device never worked, but the Federal Capital Territory Administration that ordered the extortion has neither apologised nor returned the money to Abuja motorists. Whatever happened to the N10billion or more collected is anybody's guess. Since March this year, another racket called "park and pay" has been implemented in Abuja for no justifiable reason.
Enough of this act of brigandage from supposed agents of the law. Nigerians have suffered enough in the hands of their governments. Bribes are still shared at the various checkpoints, even though they have been purportedly dismantled. Motorists are paying too much for fuel, even as government claims there is a subsidy. Every agency - the police, FRSC, VIO, FCTA and others - receives statutory allocations from the government. Each should carry out its responsibilities based on funds available to it.
Any resort to stealing from motorists should be resisted by everyone who understands his rights under Nigerian law. Thus convinced that the police are not sincere about their BCMR, we urge the National Assembly to quickly halt it. The FRSC should also be prevented from collecting more than N5, 000 for the issuance of both plate number and driver's licence; it should also be warned to desist from stopping any vehicle on the road after September 30.
For their part, Nigerians should stop taking everything for granted. We should learn to resist all forms of extortion. Otherwise, another agency may rise tomorrow to compel motorists to pay for the air they breathe while driving.