Yes, I got the Driver’s License…Nothing else is as daunting!

I am sitting on my bed listening to “Yungba Yungba, a music piece by Buga. Each time, I am opportuned, I love listening to Buga with his fast moving beats laced with the bata drum and underlying trumpet creating a unique music piece that is second to none.

Across the room from me is the television and a replay of the Saturday encounter between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Red Devils of Congo was being shown. I was truly relaxed, I have heard of the great efforts of the Super Eagles, who against all odds, defeated the Devils at home in Pointe Noire by two (2) goals thus claiming the three points at stake.

I looked out of my window and could see that the traffic on the Lagos Epe Expressroad is still there. I just escaped from this terrible traffic almost half an hour ago and I am glad that I am in the comfort of my room and not in the craziness that was outside. It is much cooler in here!

I started reflecting on the week gone bye and suddenly recollected my experience at the Driver’s Licensing Office. I beamed a smile. Yes, I did it. I got my new driver’s license. It was an obstacle that seemed impossible but in the end I have it. Ooops, what I have is the Temporary Card and not the Permanent One. That, if I believe the officials at the Licensing office, would be mailed to me before January next year. Whatever, I have a License and I can drive on Nigerian roads with no fears of being molested by any law enforcer.

The whole experience started sometimes in August, in the office of my close friend Pastor Amos. It was there that I got introduced to our man “M.O.T”. What MOT lacks in height he has in popularity. I was told that he could help to get my license for me. We got talking and he told me what his charges were, which was a princely sum, much more than the officially posted cost for the driver’s license. I requested some justification for why I should pay that much and he gave me a laundry list of all the things involved in getting the license, none of which I understood. Well, I agreed to his charge and within a few minutes he had given me the Application Form for me to complete.

I completed the Form, added the agreed fees and handed over to our man MOT. A few days later, I received a call from MOT that my appointment at the Licensing Office had been fixed for the next day by 10am. I was amazed at how fast he was able to get this done and I was under the impression that once I attend this appointment, the next thing would be to receive the driver’s License. I was in for a shocker. I got to the Licensing Office in time for my appointment and that was when I started appreciating the magnitude of our planning challenges in Nigeria. Just like me, there were hundreds of other folks over there as well for the appointment. There was neither a numbering system nor organization to help to manage the sea of human heads. Soon my man MOT showed up, he told me to be patient. He went inside the offices and re-appeared signalling that I should come to the test centre. I was handed a piece of paper with a couple of questions to test my driving knowledge. These were not that challenging and within three minutes, I had completed and handed over the answers to the officer. After about 10 minutes, our man MOT re-surfaced with a list of documents that he handed over to me and asked that I join a queue.

While on the queue, I took time to examine the documents and I was shocked. I had a document that evidenced that I had sat for an eye examination and that my vision was good. Another document evidenced that I had taken a driving test and I performed successfully. I was amazed and wondered how these documents came to be. The hours started counting and it felt as if my turn will never arrive. Finally it was my turn, I got called and went in for the data capture. this part of the process was not as painful as others and I was soon out of the office. My form was stamped and a date in October was written when I was requested to come over to the same office for the fingerprint and picture capture. By the time I looked at my watch, I had spent a little more than three (3) hours at the office. I got in my car and headed back to Lekki.

I noted the date I was requested to re-appear in my diary. Weeks later, I got an SMS message requesting that I visit the office. Unfortunately, my schedule was tight for that day and I was unable to attend. I thought of looking for MOT but somehow I forgot about doing so. Almost another four (4) weeks later, I got another SMS requesting that I visit. This time, it was convenient and I arrived at the office by 10am again. It was commotion galore. I had to linger around the corridor for another half an hour before an official showed up and started calling names. I was impressed with his efficiency and dedication to his task, despite having little or nothing to work with. My name was not on the list. I approached him and laid a complaint, which after I had shown him the text message that I received, he collected my form from me and assign me a place in the queue. The wait started and I really did wait. After a period that seemed like eternity, I was finally called and ushered into the office where my fingerprints and picture were taken. There I met a young lad responsible for operating the computer and getting the database updated. I would have scored him 100 marks for his work except that he needed a little lesson in being polite. The word “please” seemed lacking in his vocabulary.

I left the “data centre” and went back to the waiting hall, where almost twenty minutes later I was handed over my Temporary Driver’s License. I was requested to fill a register with my phone details to signify that I had picked up the temporary card. I did and soon after left the office. That was four(4) hours after I arrived.

In all, I saw a tremendous opportunity for things to be improved and I will suggest a few here:

1. Introduce an electronic machine to automatically assign numbers to applicants as they arrive at the centre;
2. Introduce a software enabled system to assign applicants to one of three (3) officers responsible for data capture as they arrive;
3. Validate and verify applicants submitted documents – it doesn’t augur well for us as a nation if our processes are being circumvented;
4. Make it easier for people to comply with the documentation requirements.

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