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Friday, December 9, 2022

Between lawless drivers and zealous VIOs

By Sunmola Olowookere

Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), especially in the South Western part of Nigeria, are known to be dutiful and zealous with their official duties of ensuring that all cars plying Nigerian roads are road worthy and all drivers licensed.

They are government workers but unusually diligent, compared to other workers in public service who see the work as one not to be serious about. They will say “a ki i sise oba laagun”.

Compared to this ilk, vehicle inspection officers seemed to be cut with a different coat. Their diligence, especially when they are out on patrol, is almost second to none.

Their tenacity may not be far from the fact that they are among the revenue generating agencies of government. In their drive to meet their target, they often times become highly driven and tenacious.

They are terrors to motorists, especially commercial ones that might want to outsmart the government and not update or procure their vehicle particulars. They choose strategic positions on the road to lie in wait for their targets.

They seem to have a sixth sense in ferreting these offenders like rats when out on stop-and-search of vehicles. They do not allow anyone to escape, as vehicle these officers could be up to 10 on the road.

The no nonsense and stern looking officers would refuse to listen to any excuse as they would yank off the number plates of the offenders’ cars and hold on to them until the offender comes to upgrade his records.

All the above characteristics were good until their zealousness began to border on the extreme. They have developed the habit of chasing fleeing vehicles with the intention of bringing them to justice.

Recall that some officials of the Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS) popularly known as VIO, sustained injuries in a ghastly accident at the Lugbe Bridge along Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road in Abuja.

The accident which occurred at about 3:10pm on Monday, September 19, was caused by some VIO officers who were driving on “One Way” while chasing a vehicle at the Lugbe interchange.

One of such would have happened in Akure, the Ondo state capital few years ago but for providence or should we say luck.

They had stopped a car coming from First Bank around ‘A” Division of the Police Force axis. As characteristic of most motorists, he did not stop immediately, as he gestured with his hands and shouted to them that the car was malfunctioning and he could not stop, in fear that the car would not start again if he did.

However, the zealous officers were having none of that and one of them deftly opened the back door and jumped inside, as the car was moving with jerks and puffs.

They tried to force him to stop but he moved on with the officer that had gotten inside his vehicle. As he turned and took a bend, another officer had crossed the road, waiting for him as he made to turn to Oke Eda road.

Like a scene in one of the James Bond films, he grabbed the door on the passenger’s side and ducked his head and the upper part of his body inside the vehicle, trying to grab the steering wheel from the driver.

The car was swerving crazily and the driver drove against the traffic on a one way lane. His children who were at the back with the first vehicle inspection officer screamed with fright.

 The officer whose body was halfway inside the car struggled with the driver carelessly, not minding that they were constituting a breach of public peace.

 Both the driver and the officer were mull headed and determined not to give in. They were not concerned about the fright of the kids nor afraid of any oncoming dashing vehicle. It was the road at the back of the Ondo State High Court Akure with a dangerous sharp bend and they were pushing against the traffic.

It was a clash of wills and brute force, although lacking sense and decorum. The officer’s legs were dangling out of the window and his midriff was resting on the rolled down window.

People were attracted to the roadside to watch the officers’ show of shame. There were chaos and shouting as onlookers scampered for safety when the car like a lurching drunk veered dangerously close to the side of the road.

Eventually, the officer who was getting support from his colleague at the back who held the man’s neck in a vice grip was able to overpower the driver and the car grinded to a stop.

They were eventually able to rip off his number plate. People around told them off on their careless conduct ,despite the fact that children were in the car.

Their defense was that the man who was taking his children to school tried to kidnap one of them and that the other one was only trying to rescue his colleague.

When contacted by our reporter, the Chief Vehicle Inspection Officer, Mr Adeleye, was at first disbelieving and gruff but when presented with the pictures, he had to accept and agree that it was not part of their duty to pursue a fleeing vehicle.

Indeed, it was sheer luck that there were no cars driving down the lane during the crazy moment. It could have been ghastly and the officer hanging out of the window might have had his hind parts ripped off.

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