Saturday, October 1, 2016 9:35 am
From today, 1 October 2016, the speed limiter, introduced by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) will take effect. For now, it will apply to commercial vehicles at the rate of N36,000 each, while private vehicles will be made to use it in the second phase later. If 25 million commercial drivers buy the device at N36,000 each, then they will altogether cough out N900 billion.
That, however, is not the issue in these hard times. A number of questions are being asked. Who benefits from this windfall? What if criminals riding a free automobile are pursuing a vehicle with speed limiter the way the Al Shabab killed the school kids in a bus? Why do the US, Canada, Britain, and other advanced countries prefer spider technology to the analogue speed limiter that FRSC wants to clamp down on Nigerians? And why is the Road Safety going ahead despite court’s ruling on the huge cost? These and more questions are raised in this September 10, 2016 report by Vanguard. It is entitled:
Is FG’s Speed Limiter a scam that could dent Buhari’s anti- graft war?
President Muhammadu Buhari may be thumping his chest in self adulation over his much cherished anti-corruption war, but the crusade may not be more than a mere conceptual variable given the evidence that corrupt practices and officials are still very active under his watch. Officials working under Buhari, are aware that he abhors corrupt tendencies like a plague and would, therefore, not hesitate to wield the big stick against anyone who indulges in graft or any semblance of fraud.
Even before the war claims the expected casualties in the administration, the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, who was in Nigeria last week, poured encomiums on Buhari, describing Nigeria under him as the regional leader in anti-corruption fight. Nonetheless, corruption woven into projects and programmes designed for ‘public safety with mass appeal’ still thrives right under Buhari’s nose without his suspicion. Key officials of his administration cleverly design and dress such malevolent projects in the garb ‘overall national interest’ and pass them to the president for assent without smelling a rat. By so doing, the fear has in itself, invariably emboldened top officials in his administration to evolve seemingly innocuous but highly tainted schemes to rip off unsuspecting Nigerians in the process.
One of such scams is currently being packaged by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, a first grade service provider under the direct supervision of the Presidency via the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF. Under the highly contentious scheme, which most Nigerians have already kicked against, the FRSC in conjunction with other powerful federal government agencies, hopes to draw blood from poor Nigerian commercial drivers and smile to the bank with close to about N900 billion under the guise of installing a novel ‘speed limiter technology on all commercial vehicles plying Nigerian roads in the first phase with effect from October 1, 2016.
The Presidency officials appear to have been ‘tripped’ by the huge potentials and unrivalled benefits of the speed limiter which would see no fewer than 25 million commercial drivers coughing out N36,000 each to be able to install the ‘life-saving’ devices in their vehicles. In the second phase, all vehicle owners in Nigeria, are to be taxed with yet to be determined fee to clamp the same device on their vehicles in a bid to ensure safety on the road and bring Nigeria into the class of hi-tech nations on highway safety, according to the FRSC. The project is simple and no right-thinking person can resist the ‘essential and life-saving’ project, which, according to the commission, is overdue in Nigeria.
But Nigerians are not eager to go along with the FRSC in its current move to introduce speed limiter technology on their vehicles for many reasons. The commission made a fortune from Nigerians not long ago and showed no remorse for its greed. It introduced two sets of plate numbers and exacted huge sums of money from motorists by force. Within two years, FRSC introduced a plate numbering system that made Nigerians to cough out between N7500 to N1000. While that numbering style was about to stabilise, the commission changed the format and introduced a new set of fees and enforced it across board without looking back at the financial implications to the poor Nigerians.
Paradoxically, while the controversy over the vexatious plate numbering system and its obnoxious fee is yet to settle, the FRSC is confronting Nigerian motorists with yet another compulsory fee-paying device dubbed “Speed Limiter”, against strident opposition from relevant stakeholders and Nigerian motorists. Under the scheme, which is slated to take off in earnest by October 1, 2016, FRSC has imposed a mandatory fee of N3,600 per each commercial vehicle to be paid upfront for the ‘installation’ of the Speed Limiter technology by firms it has already selected and given the go-ahead to get the devices on standby. As at date, the owners of the firms, their level of competence and the criteria used in picking them, are only known to the top echelon of the FRSC.
The commission however insists that it selected the ‘lucky 16 vendors’ in Conjunction with the Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, and the Nigerian Automotive and Development Council, NAC.
See the list here:
1 Best practices Ltd
2 Cnet Technology Ltd
3 De Akasten Nike Nig. Ltd
4 Digiquest Integrated Services Ltd
5 Elkaris Nig. Ltd
6 Filkmou Limited
7 Highway Digital Nigeria Ltd
8 Marbash Global Trading
9 Rexox Integrated Services Ltd
10 Richfield technologies Ltd
11 SATTRAK SERVICES LTD
12 Summit Systems ltd
13 T zone communications Ltd
14 Total UNIQUE SERVICES
15 Transit Support Services Ltd
16 Xnet Security Technologies Ltd.
Findings by Vanguard however indicate that the FRSC might have been driven the more by the commercial interest rather than safety preference in selecting the Speed Limiter Device over “Spider Technology,’ another speed limiting device, which is the most widely used by countries in developed and developing nations. It was gathered that while two vendors for Speed Limiter and Spider technology devices submitted their proposals in 2015 to the Presidency and the FRSC, the key officials responsible for vetting and bringing the two proposals to the attention of Mr. President, opted for the Speed Limiter.
The summary of the speed limiter is that the vendors will install some devices in each commercial vehicle, making it to operate within the stipulated speed limit. Notwithstanding the danger associated with such technology, like a chase by armed robbers, kidnappers and terrorists, the FRSC, insists it must be clamped on Nigerian vehicles with effect from October 1, having missed the first set date of April 1, 2015. Thus, even under the former SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, a top aide working with key elements in the FRSC made a strong case for Speed Limiter and downplayed the vitality of the Spider technology device, whose proposal is to make more money directly into the federal government purse as opposed to the speed limiter technology, which could enrich a few individuals working for some powerful elements in the government of Nigeria.
Clearly, all the huge money to be paid by drivers is to be paid directly by vehicle owners and the entire money given to the vendors and their cronies in government. The list of the owners when checked with the Corporate Affairs Commission may eventually reveal who the proxies and their real owners are. Even if the road safety agency disputes that the number is not up to 25 million, it still expects to rake in billions of Naira from the controversial scheme. But, according to the agency, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the revenue accruing from the sales o the devices, as the vendors are not part of the commission but private businessmen. None of the speed devices is manufactured in Nigeria but are to be imported with hard earned foreign exchange from Asia, particularly, China and India, and further drain the nation’s economy, which is said to be in real recession. The money is expected to be paid directly to the ’16 lucky speed limiter vendors chosen by the FRSC, SON and NAC while nothing gets into the purse of the Federal Government.
Thus, with just one scheme, a few lucky Nigerians working in gloves with top officials of the FRSC would pocket close to N1 trillion and smile to their banks. Although the FRSC is starting with commercial vehicles in the first phase, with the compulsory N36,000 payment per vehicle, it hopes to extend it to all car owners in Nigeria under the next phase but the fee is yet to be rolled out. So, more money will still pass from Nigerians into the hands of the vendors and the FRSC.
On the other hand, the Spider tech combines speed limit with security and employment, and promises to generate huge sum of money into the purse of the federal government strictly from traffic offenders and not all vehicle owners. Under the proposal, which is still with both the Office of the SGF and the FRSC, the service providers are to procure operational vehicles fitted with security cameras that record and transmit traffic offences to both the drivers and the control centres of the FRSC and fines imposed on the defaulters with specific dates and time to pay. The vendors also offer to train the FRSC officials on the use and operation of the technology, which is what is deployed by security agencies in the U.S, UK, Germany, and other parts of the world. The fines generated from the defaulting vehicles, according to a copy of the proposal to the Presidency, are to be shared on an agreed proportion between the vendor and the federal government.
One of the vendors is proposing taking 70 percent and remitting 30 percent to the FRSC since the company is to supply all the hardware, vehicles, and ambulances for FRSC and create a wavelength for the operation across the country. “Our proposal is that a dedicated account should be opened by the FRSC with the Central Bank of Nigeria where all fines from defaulting vehicle owners are paid into and then shared on the agreed ration of 70:30 to the vendor and the FRSC to enable us to recoup our initial investment and then reduce our own share to 50 percent in the next five years,” one of the vendors, whose paper is yet to receive a reply from the SGF and the FRSC, said.
As lofty as the proposal by the spider technology provider was, both the FRSC and the SGF, have not not considered their option. While the two offices have concluded arrangements with the 16 vendors of the speed limiter technology to start providing services at the cost of N36,000 per commercial vehicle on October 1, the two offices have kept mute on the spider technology proposal. Two letters sent to them in 2014 and another one on May 23, 2016, have neither been responded to nor given any serious attention. The SGF, it was learnt, had read the proposal and was very happy with the fact that apart from controlling speed, the spider technology would also generate money for the federal government. According to sources close to the SGF, David Babachir Lawal was so impressed by the proposal that he immediately minuted on the paper to one of the directors in his office to work on it with a view to sending a brief to President Buhari for comparison with the speed limiter and possible approval of the latter because of its immense benefits. But that was the end of the matter.
Findings revealed that once some interested parties in the SGF office who had already been promised some financial rewards from the expected N900 billion to be generated from the Speed Limiter vendors got wind of the spider technology proposal, they decided to sit on it. True to their plot, there has been no word from the SGF’s office with regards to the proposal many months after the SGF minuted on the file. All hands are now on deck to work for the realisation of the N900 billion to be shared between the lucky 16 firms and some powerful in government. They are warming up for October 1 so as to begin to draw from their own share of the likely “booty”.
In Kenya, a regular example often cited by the FRSC as a success story of speed limiter, the regulations require that only public service vehicles and commercial trucks with tare weight of over 3,048 kilogrammes fit tamper-proof speed recording devices. The recording facilities are merely applied to vehicles and to be downloaded with a view to challenging offending drivers in court. It is not clamped to weigh down vehicle speed as the FRSC is planning to do in Nigeria. According to the Kenyan Transport Authority, “The new gadget has been improved from analogue to digital. It has the capacity to record the speed of a vehicle and store the information for several days. The difference between the old gadgets and the new ones is that with the latter, apart from recording and storing speed data, the information can also be downloaded. “This is important because the work of traffic police officers has been made easier with the use of the gadget. Authorities will be able to download information before using it as evidence in court against defaulting motorists”. The obvious disadvantages of the Speed limiter technology coupled with mandatory N3,600 levy to be imposed on motorists have raised many questions about the application of the device and force human right groups and the National Assembly to kick against its adoption in Nigeria.
But this rejection by the relevant stakeholders notwithstanding, the FRSC has defied all agencies and groups to push forward with its planned October 1 takeoff date. Dissatisfied with the unilateral adoption of the Speed limiter and imposition of an outrageous N36000 levy on motorists, a human rights group-Registered Trustees of International Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Society sued the FRSC along with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, the National Automotive Council, NAC and the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW as well as the Attorney General of the Federation to stop the action. In the main, the group prayed the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Evo Chukwu to determine whether the FRSC has the right to apply speed limiting devices on motorists in Nigeria and to unilaterally appoint speed limiter vendors and impose the N36000 mandatory fee per motorist.
In the judgment delivered on April 7, 2016, Justice Evo Chukwu declared that though the FRSC had the right to apply speed control devices in order to make the highway safer, it did not have the right to impose the huge fee of N36000 per motorist. “So based on the forgoing, I am inclined to hold that the enforcement or the provision by the FRSC that speed limiter devices be installed in vehicles in Nigeria is within the purview of its powers,” the judge ruled.
“What I must state here is that the Act establishing the FRSC never entitled them to limit the scope from where ordinary Nigerians can buy speed limiter nor did the Act allow them the monopoly to install at astronomical price of N36,000 on innocent Nigerians who are already groaning in abject poverty and I so hold,” Justice Chukwu also decided. In fact, it was based on the court decision that many members of the House of Representatives frontally opposed the application of the speed limiter on Nigerian vehicles, saying that the device was obsolete and could expose Nigerians to more dangers in the hands of criminals – rapists, kidnappers, armed robbers and terrorists. The fear of the lawmakers, like others, who are familiar with the outdated speed device, is that if an innocent motorist, whose car has been clamped with the speed limiting device, is pursued by a criminal whose vehicle is not ‘speed-limited’, the former would be an easy prey to the latter.
That was why the lawmakers summoned the Corps Marshal of the Federation, Boboye Oyeyemi to explain to them why the planned use of the device should not be discontinued with immediate effect. The sponsor of the motion under Matters of urgent public importance, Mr. Phillip Shuaibu (APC-Edo), expressed the fear that the application of the device could expose innocent motorists to avoidable assassination and car snatching in the hands of evil-minded persons and should be discarded. The lawmaker reminded the FRSC that the speed limiter had been used and discarded by other countries because of its obvious limitations and suggested that the Spider technology, which is being used by all other countries because of its foul-proof and safety features be adopted by Nigeria in place of the speed limiter. Shuaibu advocated the use of an alternative applicable technology known as Spider Technology which uses high technology mobile cameras installed on FRSC patrol vehicles to detect, monitor and track speed limits on highways.
“The spider technology will generate revenue into government coffers as defaulters will pay levies unlike the speed limit technology that profits only the suppliers,” the lawmaker said. Almost all the contributing lawmakers to the debate, were unanimous in rejecting the decision of the FRSC to use speed limiter instead of Spider technology because of the obvious advantages the latter offers. Mr. Johnson Agbonayinman (PDP-Edo), Mr. Abubakar Chika (APC-Niger) and Mrs. Onyemaechi Mrakpor (PDP-Delta), all kicked against the application of the speed limiter, saying that it would amount to dumping an outdated technology on Nigeria and exacerbating the suffering of Nigerians by imposing N36,000 per motorist for the device. “It’s unacceptable for someone to come through the back door to introduce a device that will rip off Nigerians,” he said adding “I think what is needed is to ensure that there are speed breakers where they are necessary and let the road signs be there and for people to obey them,” Agbonayinman said.
“The condition is so bad that some people, for instance the commercial vehicle drivers, now cut and join wires to enable them start their vehicles and where do you want them to get the money for speed limiters,” Mrakpor questioned. Even the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara , spoke harshly against the planned device and the huge amount imposed per vehicle owner, saying that most families in the country were finding it very difficult to survive and did not see the justification to add to their economic woes. “Almost all families are bleeding financially and it will be callous to impose this device on them,” Dogara pointed out, but referred the matter to a committee to work on. But despite the stiff opposition from the lawmakers and the court statement on the commission imposing the huge fee of N36,000 per vehicle and choosing the vendors for the supply of the devices, the FRSC Chief Executive, Boboye Oyeyemi, is adamant, insisting that the project must go on as planned. He told one of our correspondents that the commission would not back down on the project and would not consider the proposal for the provision of the more preferred Spider technology in spite of the fact that the vendor ‘asked to be paid 70 percent of the fines to be generated and a waiver from the CBN to open a buffer account.