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With the introduction of the America-style vehicle registration plates in 1992, the 36 states of the federation and the FCT took pride in showcasing their slogan and nicknames. For some different reasons plate numbers of some states hold more attraction to vehicle owners than some others AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE, Abuja, David Aduge-Ani, Abuja and ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt tell why number plates of some states don’t hold attraction to vehicle owners.
badan, famous for being the capital city of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, is also the largest city on the West African frontier. A city measuring over 3,000 square miles, with a skyline that is dominated by rusty corrugated roofing sheets is a city known for its huge vehicular traffic.
As the modern capital city of Oyo State, naturally the people of the state take pride in their inheritance, rich culture and tradition that have spanned hundreds of years. When the federal government opted for the American-style vehicle number plates for all automobiles in the country, states took pride in adopting their slogans. Oyo State chose the “The Pace-setter State.” Accordingly, the tag adorned all vehicle number plates with the state’s name.
It can be recalled that the Nigerian vehicle registration in used now were introduced in 1992 and revised in 2011. Nigeria and Liberia are the only African countries that do not use the European license plate format.
Strangely, just a few motorists in the state would rather drive without the ‘Pace Setter’ state’s license plate. Modern models of automobiles in the state, rather proudly bear the Lagos State license plates, that announces the state as ‘Centre of Excellence.’
The choice for Lagos licence plate in Oyo State is widespread, covering private, commercial and specialised vehicles.
Oyo State vehicle owners are not dodging some form of charges; they are not trying to evade any law in the state,they simply consider the state’s license plate to be too local because the state is – through no fault of it- is considered the ancestral home of Yorubas and steeped in culture and tradition.
For Abiola Fatoke who drives a 2009 Toyota Corolla model saloon car, the Lagos State license plate gives one the feeling of being modern, seeing as it is the nation’s ‘centre of excellence’.
“Everything good comes from Lagos and when you drive a Lagos registration plate, it makes you feel special. I am a resident of Ibadan, but I do business in Lagos. It gives me a feeling of modernity to use the Lagos plate number. Oyo is, somehow, primitive compared to Lagos. For me, I feel more comfortable driving with the ‘Centre of Excellence’plate,” he said.
Fatoke disclosed that, even the state government’s officials rather licence their personal cars in Lagos.
Other reasons put forward by motorists in Ibadan included; relentless scrutiny of Oyo State motorists, whose vehicles bear Oyo license plates whenever they venture into Lagos State by the Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Officers, the police and other organisations charged with regulating traffic.
To avoid being constantly humiliated and bullied by Lagos traffic officials, Sikiru Ademola, a commercial driver, had to make a choice.
“We have to think out of the box to go for what they want, because we are always harassed by the traffic officials in Lagos, who stop us and scrutinise our vehicle documents. Since we are always in Lagos for one business or the other, getting a Lagos plate number is best for us and it has helped us to avoid undue delay on the roads,” he said, relieved.
On the other hand, a civil servant, Samuel Muyiwa claims that there is a higher risk of ending up with fake number plate and vehicle papers in Oyo State than when obtained in Lagos State. This has further put off several vehicle owners from getting their papers from the state,” he said.
However, a resident of Ibadan and senior lecturer at the European Studies Department, University of Ibadan, Dr Abiodun Adetokunbo, argued that the reason for the trend was simply, tradition, as the people have remained highly traditional over generations and were unwilling to depart from it.
“Indeed, Ibadan is a local city but her people always take pride in our inheritance. That is why, sometimes, we are described as ‘local people’. The license plate thing is a matter of ego and nothing else. How can you not take pride in what is yours?
“As a native of Ibadan, I take pride in Oyo State and, in fact, I went for a number plate of my local government area,”Adetokunbo proudly said. Despite all these claims, one of Adetokunbo’s car has a Lagos plate number. He explained to our correspondent that, at the time he registered the car, there was a shortage of Oyo license plates.
For public affairs commentator, Segun Abioye, “when you have more vehicle registration to your state, you gain and there is no doubt about that. So, it is no surprise that Lagos State has consolidated on the status of the state to rake in more revenue.”
He further urged other states to take pride in promoting their states, as it has impacted on the revenue drive of their states and the issue of vehicle registration plates was one of such.
According to the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), to register a vehicle, an applicant would be expected to go to the Motor Licensing Office (MLO) of State Board of Internal Revenue (SBIR), where he/she would be guided on the process and procedure of vehicle registration.
The applicant would then be issued with necessary vehicle documents, which include Vehicle License, Certificate of Road-worthiness, Valid Insurance Certificate and Proof of Ownership Certificate.
All vehicle papers would have to be renewed annually, but, as it stands in Oyo State, vehicle owners prefer to go all the way to Lagos to get their vehicle papers renewed.
Clearly, the Oyo State government is getting the shorter end of the stick, while the Lagos State government smiles to the bank.
Not just Oyo, the Ogun State residents, who are the immediate neighbours of Lagos are bitten even harder by the Lagos number plate bug, so also are the remaing states of the South-west. When it comes to obtaining number plates for high-end automobiles, virtually everyone in Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti rushes down to Lagos, just to be part of the so called prestige, “Centre of Excellence” confers on the car.
It is no different in the South-south and South-east, where motorists from Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states prefer the Rivers State license plates, especially that of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, because of the air of class, Port Harcourt, “the Garden City” carries.
A check carried out by LEADERSHIP Weekend revealed that some car owners who prefer Rivers State number plates for their cars do so just to make a distinction between them and other car owners in their home states.
Others, it was further revealed, chose the Rivers’ license plates, so as to escape harassment from security agents and touts on the nation’s highways.
A visit by LEADERSHIP Weekend to the motor licencing offices of the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) at Old GRA, Borokiri and Diobu, all in Port Harcourt, revealed that car owners would do all in their power to get license plates of Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas.
A motorist, Clifford Chukwu, told our correspondent that he came all the way from Aba, Abia State, to get a license plate for either Port Harcourt City or Obio/Akpor, which he was sure would make him move with ease in and out of Rivers.
“My brother, with Port Harcourt City or Obio/Akpor number plate, my car can come into Rivers State any time and, from any point, without being harrassed by one task-force or the other.
“Again, as a businessman in Aba, we see having a plate number from Abia State as being local. Every businessman wants to let you know that he has gone beyond Aba and Abia State when you look at his car number plate.”
Also, speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, another car owner, Mr. Akpan Udeme, said he chose a number plate from Rivers State because it was no easier for him to get that of his home-town, Akwa Ibom.
“When I bought my car, I went to the motor licencing office at Eket for a plate number, but was advised by an official to go to Port Harcourt, because, according to her, it would be easier to get a Rivers’ number plate than that of Akwa Ibom. That was the only thing that moved me to come to Rivers,” he said
Abuja plate numbers are the attraction among residents of neighbouring Kogi and Nasarawa. According to Mike Onyishi, a resident of Keffi in Nasarawa State, having an Abuja plate number on your car gives you prestige as you travel.
“Sometimes, the police who are on the check points do not even bother to check you properly when they see your car with FCT or Abuja number. Most of them will feel that you are a Senator, a House of Reps member or an important personality from the Federal Capital Territory and so they will not want to embarrass you,” he said.
He explained that even in other states or in your village, FCT plate numbers command better respects before the people. “When you drive a car with Abuja or FCT number plate, the locals are always happy to identify with you, simply because of your Abuja number. They will believe that their son or daughter is a bonafide resident of the Federal Capital Territory, the seat of power,” he added.
Onyishi noted that although getting Abuja plate number is difficult and involves a lot of hurdles, it is worth it when you factor in the respect Nigerians attach to Abuja plate numbers.
Adebayo Ojo a resident of Minna, Niger State, narrated how he was delayed and thoroughly scrutinised at every police check points during his travels from Minna to Lagos. “Each time I approach any police check point, they are always thorough at checking my car and what I carry in my booth. I never knew it was because of the Niger State plate number of my car,” he said.
He stated that as soon as he changed his plate number from Niger to Abuja, based on the advice of a friend, all those endless searches and delays stopped at the police check points.
Even within the FCT, some plate numbers hold more attraction than others. “Abuja-ABC,” which belongs to the Abuja Municipal Area Council, is the prime choice of FCT vehicle owners. The high demand for the “Abuja –ABC” number plate has limited its availability and when available, it is obtained at a premium, KWL (Kwali), KUJ (Kuje), ABJ (Abaji), BWR (Bwari), and GWA (Gwagwalada) area councils of the FCT are all round abundantly available and go for no additional costs.