WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE VIOs. An Encounter with Engr Toriola, Lagos Chief VIO

The white colour signifies peace, but to many Lagosians and Nigerian motorists in general, the white uniform of the officers of the Vehicle Inspection Service otherwise known as VIOs {Vehicle Inspection Officers} is a cause of fear. It is common for motorists, especially commercial drivers to ask their colleagues coming from the opposite direction if VIOs are on the route before embarking on the journey. And if they sight their check-point ahead, you see drivers making abrupt U-turns dangerously to evade a check or even arrest.

We paid a visit to Engineer Gbolahan Abilhafiz Toriola, the Lagos State Chief Vehicle Inspection officer in his office. The office is a bee-hive of activities as many people who must have committed one offence of another besieged the premises. If you think such offences are prevalent only among the lower class or illiterates, you will be disappointed as the educated of all sexes are equally guilty. The amiable gentleman was eager to explain the activities of the VIS.

“I do not think road users should be afraid of us as we work with section 12 of the traffic law. In fact, the Vehicle Inspection Service is as old as the Police because it was carved out of the Police in 1963. Since then, we have been ensuring that we have road worthy vehicles, competent drivers among other activities. Once you abide by the rules and regulations, you have your driver’s license, vehicle particulars, hackney permit for the commercial vehicle, valid insurance, fire extinguisher, the C caution triangle, extra tyre, jack, your vehicle is road worthy and in good working condition, you have no reason to fear us.” Engineer Toriola explained.

On the peculiarities of driving in Lagos, he spoke further. “VIOs all over Nigeria use the same law, but Lagos has a few modifications due to its cosmopolitan nature, its population, road infrastructure, vehicular and human traffic. Lagos has a vehicular density of 224 vehicles per kilometer. We mean that on every kilometer of roads in Lagos, we have 224 vehicles. That is higher than many cities in Europe and America. So, any of the unwholesome driving habits on the roads will definitely affect others negatively. If you make a U-turn where you are not supposed to, drive against traffic, stop or park where you are not supposed to, you will cause a grid-lock that will lead to loss of Man-hours. That is why you have LASTMA to ensure the free flow of traffic. And with the FRSC, you make sure you observe all the necessary safety precautions. So, if you abide by all the laws, you cannot have any problem with any of these agencies. Lagos is special and has to be given adequate attention.

About road traffic crashes involving heavy duty trucks, tankers and trailers, many of which are caused by overloading and mechanical factors, Engineer Toriola continued. “That is one of the areas that require urgent attention. There are supposed to be weigh bridges at the ports and other strategic places, to make sure there is no overloading. That is key and Lagos is working towards it

On the issue of vehicles, who refuse to stop when flagged down and like to intimidate VIOs with their height and size. Engineer Toriola says “Lagos State has developed a Data Base of vehicles, so if we look at your number plate and you refuse to stop, we already have your details, the company, factory, or even the home address. Section 22 of the traffic law empowers us to arrest without a warrant or impound a vehicle. We also work with their unions to ensure their drivers are well trained”

The Vehicle Inspection Service also does a lot of public enlightenment and sensitization campaigns to inculcate in the people, the culture of safety, good driving habits, obedience to traffic rules and to have consideration for other road users

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