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Lack of policy continuation: Sad story of police order on plate numbers

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Vehicle plate numbersWhen one talks of strong rationale behind State governments’ huge debt structure in Nigeria today, the first issue that comes to mind is Policy Somersault or Lack of Continuity in Policy. For instance,

a governor in a particular state starts the construction of 30 kilometers road from point X to Y, but could not complete it; and another governor comes on board, he starts another 40 kilometers from point K to Z, abandoning the first; it continues like that for years. The end result will obviously be huge debt profile arising from lack of continuity in policy. 

At the federal level, policy somersault remains palpable and follows the same pattern stated above. From ministry of Works to Agriculture to Health, just to mention but a few; the story of lack of continuity in policies remain the same, successive ministers abandoning the work started by their predecessors for new ones, instead of completing those they met on ground. This sad story of somersault has resulted in developmental stagnation in Nigeria.

In Nigerian Police however, one vital policy that was jettisoned after the initiator, Rtd. Inspector General of Police, now, the Chairman of Police Service Commission [PSC], Sir Mike Okiro, left office, is the policy of compulsory enforcement of affixing registered plate numbers on vehicles for purpose of proper identification and security, irrespective of personalities involved. 

Although, the law provides that every vehicle in Nigeria must have registered plate number affixed in proper places on the vehicle. But today in Nigeria, the gilded personalities, establishments have make mockery of this law as they go about with vehicles without plate numbers or no number at all.    

Report said that when Sir Mike Okiro was the Inspector General of Police [IGP], a bullion van knocked and killed a woman in Lagos State. Since the van had no registered plate number, tracing and tracking it became almost impossible. As a result of that incident, Okiro issued the order that all vehicles especially, those belonging to government establishments and officials, must have the plate numbers displayed in the appropriate places, and two weeks was given for everybody to comply.

The compliance to this order was total although few individuals and establishments flouted the order and got reprimanded. For instance, report had it that an escort vehicle belonging to the Bayelsa State government was impounded for covering its plate number positions on the vehicle. At the airport, the IGP, Mike Okiro, as he then was, impounded the escort vehicle belonging to Nigerian Immigration Service, for the same offence of plate number covering. 

It took the intervention of the Comptroller General of Immigration then, for the release of the vehicle, with a promise to affix the plate number. A senior police officer who came for a meeting at force headquarters had his vehicle detained for the reason that the plate number of his official vehicle was covered with a pouch. In a nutshell, the era of Rtd. IGP Mike Okiro witnessed obedience to the law of every vehicle on Nigerian roads moving with registered plate number affixed in appropriate places on the vehicle.

However, revisionism set in when Okiro left office. Nobody cared about plate number again especially in government establishments. The worst form of manifestation of the problem of revisionism came on June 16, 2011 when Louis Edet was bombed. On the day Force Headquarters was bombed, the bombers trailed the then Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim to his Maitama residence with Volkswagen car that has no plate number in appropriate places.

 Report has it that he, Ringim asked the august visitor to follow him to his office. At the force headquarters, the same un–plate-numbered car made it to the IG’s car park unstopped. What saved the force building from collapsing was that the eagle eyed traffic warden in charge of vehicular movement in the building asked the un-numbered car to park away from the IGs car and as soon as he moved the car few meters away from the official car of the IG, the bomb exploded.

Information has it that when Okiro was the IG of Police, he created the existing car park for the IG and stationed a traffic warden there to enforce order.  The traffic warder on duty on that fateful day, died in the course of leading the bomber away from the IG’s car park. It would have been catastrophic for the Police as an institution if Okiro had not created that car park and taken steps to ensure compliance that only the IG’s car must be seen in the park.

It is rather disheartening that in the federal capital territory [FCT], most of the vehicles belonging to the Special Anti- robbery Squad [SARS] are even the worst culprits of the offence of non-compliance with plate number display. Some high ranking Police officers are also in the habit of plate numbers covering in their vehicles. Even in the FCT now, the number of vehicles without plate number has increased. The dangerous implication of these trends of plate numbers covering with pouch or outright removal by government establishments and officials is that it could be exploited by criminal elements to perpetrate evil in the country.

Consequently, this writer will like to appeal to the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, to consider the re-introduction of plate number display in every vehicle in Nigeria as was the case in Okiro’s era. This may go a long way in complementing the improving security situation in Nigeria. It will also add value to what many Nigerians have identified as Arase’s Progressive Policing Phenomenon [PPP] that has defined his leadership model of the Police as an institution in Nigeria.

Emeka Oraetoka, Information Management Consultant & Researcher, wrote in from Abuja; e-mail: oramekllis@lycos.com     

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