Problems of number plates in Nigeria: why some prefer other states' number plates?


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A lot of Nigerians especially car owners are not aware of the guiding rules and laws that govern number plates issuance in Nigeria, except what they prefer. Check details of the situation here!

It is customary to identify vehicles with the name of the manufacturer, the model, the year of manufacture and in some cases the trim. However, these are not the only ways that a car can be recognised, especially when moving on the roads.

One of the usual ways to identify a vehicle on the road is with the use of number plates. Number plates issuance though has become a topic of much controversy, as a lot of Nigerians do not know the whole fact about things like issuance and usage. Nonetheless, the issuing body for number plates remains the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), an independent federal agency in Nigeria.

Naijauto takes a look at the many myths, as well as facts surrounding vehicle number plates in Nigeria, and why car owners prefer number plates of some states over others. 

1. The major issues on the ground!

It is somewhat shocking to know that not many Nigerians are familiar with the laws and regulations involved in the number plate’s issuance and usage. It is even more so to find that this is true among car owners. What is of concern to most car owners, however, is that they get the plate numbers of some states, for which they don't mind to pay huge sums of money to get.

A car owner who gets an Abuja number plate but resides in Lagos might be hoping to get some benefits with this plate number. It may be for asserting his presence more on Lagos roads than others, or what exactly is his attraction for doing this? Why do motorists prefer number plates of some states that are not even their states of residence?


People in Nigeria often prefer Lagos or Abuja number plates

The Nigerian laws with regards to number plates’ issuance are fair enough and it's a wonder that most Nigerians don't know these laws. If you ask around you'll find some Nigerians saying the number plates are issued by state governments, while another section will tell you it's the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) of the states. Only a few, however, rightly know that it is the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), who is also in charge of driving license application in Nigeria.

2. The public understanding of number plates!

A trending video was released during the just-concluded elections where a governorship candidate was seen to be saying that numbers plates will be used for generating revenues by ensuring that people who used other state's number plates are taxed. This seemed to cause a bit of unrest, especially on social media while representing the general understanding about number plates.

However, most Nigerians seem to agree that number plates can be issued at official designations, while it can be used without restrictions across states and locations in Nigeria without fear of being punished by government agencies.

Sunday Adesina, who lives in Ibadan, but hails from Ogbomoso North Local Government Area, noted that obtaining a number plate depends on choice and availability

“For me, I am indifferent to where number plate is obtained and used, just as the constitution does not contain such restriction,” he said.

Another supporter of Sunday's point, Akintunde Ishola, who is employed at a publishing outfit in Ibadan, also noted that Nigerians are permitted to obtain and use number plates in any part of the country by the Nigerian constitution.

According to Akintunde: “Number plate is a kind of tracking number for car owners which signal their nationality as Nigerians and the state which issued the plate. There is no rule in the Nigerian constitution which regulates that a vehicle owner must obtain the number plate from their state of origin or their state of residence. You can claim any state’s number plate in Nigeria and use it anywhere in the country.”

The popular Molete taxi park in Ibadan has a commercial driver, Mr. Olalekan David, with an Ogun state number. He is of the opinion that instituting a law that puts restrictions on number plates will be bad for his business.

“Who would promulgate that I obtain the number plate of my state of origin or residence? There is no sense in it. If that should be a law, it means that, as a driver, I cannot go beyond the boundaries of my state of origin or residence,”

 “That isn’t good for my business too as a commercial taxi driver. Should that be, it means that if I get a charter offer to convey people from Ibadan to Ikire (in Osun State), I cannot go."

“How much would I realise from commuting between Molete and Mokola Roundabout that could be compared with taking the Ikire charter offer?” he lamented.

Still, in Ibadan, a car owner with Lagos plate number suggests that it is only important to have a valid plate number irrespective of where it is obtained, or where the owner resides in the country.

While remaining anonymous, he states: “I hailed from Osun State, I’ve always lived in Oyo State, here in Ibadan, and I’ve always used Lagos State number plate. Where you obtain your number plate does not matter. If my memory serves me right, I obtained my first plate number in 1989. And even then, what mattered most was that you had a valid number plate.”

>>> To know your Lagos number plate is genuine, check here: Lagos state vehicle registration & plate number verification!

3. The number plate's myths and general preferences

While it is constitutional to be able to obtain and use vehicle number plates from any state of the country, some Nigerians still prefer that of some states over others. If one takes random samples, it will yield a very high probability for Lagos and Abuja plate numbers for vehicle owners.

According to Mr. Akintunde, he noticed that states will usually encourage its residents and indigenes to get her plate numbers to increases their internally generated revenues (IGR), this he explained thus: “residents would prefer Lagos’ and Abuja’s number plates because they were and are capital cities respectively."

“More so, several people commute those two major Nigerian cities, and would not like to have any problem with the transportation regulatory bodies there,” he affirmed.


FRSC understands the attitude of certain regulatory bodies contributes to this issue

For Mr. Adesina, however, it is a case of prestige, as he explains that other states' plate numbers are not as prestigious as that of Lagos and Abuja.

“I think people go for Lagos’ and Abuja’s number plates due to the seeming prestige attached to the old and new FCTs. This is Nigeria where a location is status-credit. Although I am less concerned about the state’s name my number plate bears, the health of my car and the currency of my particulars take priority.” he disclosed.

For the anonymous car owner, his opinion is this: “As a common sight in Ibadan, people use Lagos and Abuja number plates, not because they are cheaper, but because they accord their user's prestige.”

He also corroborated his points citing the preference of Osun over Oyo plate numbers, that Osun has more empathy for the car owner than Oyo issuing office.

“I think commercial drivers obtain number plates from other states, especially Osun, because Osun, unlike Oyo, does not compel drivers to do auto-reg. A good number of these commercial drivers and even private drivers have their cars parked with the engineer for several months, if not years, due to one mechanical fault or the other. When those cars with Osun State number plates get back on the road, the state does not ask their owners to pay for the years for which such cars were absent on the road; this is not so in Oyo State,” the anonymous man said.

Some other car owners also have the opinion that both Lagos and Abuja plate numbers save car owners from harassment meted out by corrupt security personnel especially the police.

For car owners like Bimpe Adegbite, who is an indigene of Ibadan, he cites police harassment as his attraction for choosing a Lagos plate number, especially for long distance travels.

“With ‘neutral’ number plates like Lagos and Abuja, it is difficult to determine the actual identity of the vehicle owner,” he disclosed.

However, a commercial driver, Sarafadeen Adegoke has a contrary opinion. He thinks there are cheaper alternatives to both Lagos and Abuja plate numbers and fails to see why people have preferences for both of these numbers. He is sure that people are issued fake plate numbers due to their desperation for Lagos and Abuja plate numbers.

>>> Residents of other states can check this: How do you know whether your car plate number is fake or not?

4. What's the state's involvement in the process?

With the foggy stance of most Nigerians about the involvement of the states in the number plate issuance processes, the FRSC who is the officiating agency for number plate issuance has been trying its best to sensitise the public.

The FRSC, through its official Bisi Kazeem says:  “Just like the national drivers license, the operational procedures for the issuance of number plates (NPs) involves the FRSC whose role is the production and issuance of number plate to various state governments who are represented by the state Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Motor Vehicle Administration Agency (MVAA). FRSC is also charged with the duty of managing the database of registered vehicles in Nigeria.

“On the other hand, the BIR/MVAA represents the various states in the processes and is responsible for generating revenue from the scheme. They achieve this by selling vehicle NPs at government approved rates and registration of vehicles across the country. Their other functions include issuance and registration of new NPs, processing transfer of vehicle ownership and updating the records of vehicle owners and processing transfer of registered vehicles details to FRSC National Vehicle Information Scheme (NVIS) database. And the VIO carries out testing of drivers and vehicle inspection and also ensure that only vehicles that meet minimum standards are registered to ply Nigerian roads."

In a further explanation, Kazeem confirms that the FRSC oversees the operations of number plates by law, but it is the state that is actually in charge of number plates' activities. He reiterates that FRSC acts as the supervisor of the process, but the states also do not have the rights to stop any vehicle for moving on its roads.

“Yes, states have input in the issuance of number plate. As discussed above, state governments play major roles in the issuance of number plates through the BIR/MVAA whose functions include: issuance/registration of new number plates and processing transfer of ownership and update records of vehicle owners to FRSC NVIS database among others.

“However, it is not possible for state government to regulate or prevent a vehicle with another state’s number plate from using its road, because all vehicles are licensed to operate anywhere in the country irrespective of the state of registration. There is no regulation that restricts vehicles from plying state roads other than the state where such vehicles were registered,” Kazeem concluded.

>>> If you haven't got one, read the steps here: Vehicle plate number verification, costs and approved sites for new number plate

Segun Ogunbiyi
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