Although the Nigeria Police Force appears to be locked in a battle with the public over the directive by the Inspector General of the Police to arrest and prosecute motorists with tinted glasses, the police seem to be gaining the upper hand. Chiemelie Ezeobi writes â€¨
After driving a few miles from his house, a car dealer, Femi Adekola was stopped by the police. At first he was worried because it was unusual. But as soon as he alighted from the car in which he was driving, he was asked to produce the permit for the tinted windows on his car. Adekola was prepared. He produced a permit and he was allowed to go.
Recently, the police re-launched its campaign against cars with tinted glasses plying the roads. In a statement issued by the police authorities, the Inspector General of the Police, Mohammed Abubakar said the indiscriminate use of tinted windows and windshields poses a danger as criminal elements, including suspected terrorists hide behind them to commit crimes.â€¨
â€¨According to the statement, “The IG wishes to remind Nigerians from all walks of life, including politicians, military and security personnel that the ban on unlawful and indiscriminate use of tinted glasses and legislation forbidding the plying of unregistered vehicles is still in force.â€¨â€¨
“He wishes to clearly state that the Nigeria Police will no longer tolerate the few misguided Nigerians who abuse the use of tinted glasses and unregistered/unlicensed vehicles. Similarly, owners of unregistered/unlicensed vehicles are advised to immediately register them and obtain appropriate licences or withdraw them forthwith from the public.”
With that directive, the police moved to the streets to carry out the order, but not with some resistance from citizens who believed the police authorities had not done enough to educate the public and in particular provide easy access for them to obtain the permits.
“We just heard the announcement suddenly without enough and reasonable time given to those who have these kinds of cars to do something about it. I’m sure everyone is confused as to what to do. It has become a controversial thing because nothing was done to carry the public along, even though there is a security challenge in the country. I think if any policy must succeed it must be based on public interest and people must be given the benefit of the doubt,” said Bello Mohammed, a transporter.
A legal practitioner, Malachy Ugwumadu said that the ban of tinted windows for vehicles is a very clear appeal of discrimination in the country. While speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily during the week, Ugwumadu said the public was banned from the use of tinted glasses, with exceptions.
He said those who were exempted were the president, vice-president, governors, deputy governors, the senate president, deputy senate president, speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and minority leaders in both chambers of the National Assembly. He added that those that were exempted are the same category of Nigerians who are entitled to huge security votes, and have high level security officers to protect them and thus declared the police directive an act of discrimination.
Although a law in Nigeria exists that prohibits tinted glasses on cars, as reinforced two years ago by the past Inspector General of Police and Minister of Police Affairs, Hafiz Ringim and Humphrey Abah respectively, enforcement of the said law was lax.â€¨â€¨ THISDAY discovered that the law is fully backed by Chapter M21 Laws of the Federal Government of Nigeria Motor Vehicles, otherwise known as Prohibition of Tinted Glass Act.
â€¨â€¨Abah was quoted to have said it would reduce crime perpetuated under the cover of tinted glasses, adding that the law revokes all otherwise existing permits for tinted glasses.â€¨â€¨ While exempting some persons from the law, he had said that police and other security personnel have been given the authority to remove tints from unauthorised vehicles.â€¨â€¨
“All other authorisations on the use of car tints by the police before now have been shelved except for vehicles purchased with factory-fitted tints but it is left for the police to determine whether they are truly factory-fitted,” he had said.â€¨
â€¨However, the lackadaisical attitude of the police towards enforcing the law gave motorists the courage to continue buying and driving their cars even though their glasses were tinted.â€¨â€¨
As such, the resurrection of the law was unsurprising owing to increasing acts of terrorism carried out by suspected terrorists in cars with tinted glasses. According to intelligence reports, this group of people often hides under the cover of tinted glasses to perpetuate their acts.
â€¨â€¨To counter such acts of illegality, Abubakar directed the state Commissioners of Police and Zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) to seize vehicles with tinted glasses and prosecute their owners in line with the extant laws.â€¨â€¨ Describing the use of tinted vehicles as unlawful, the IG through the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer Frank Mba, a chief superintendent of police, said the ban on tinted glasses also applies to politicians, military and security personnel.â€¨
â€¨However, contrary to the previous directive which permitted the police to merely stop and strip the tints off, the current directive gives the police the power to seize and prosecute defaulters according to the law.â€¨
â€¨Last week, the police reportedly seized about 100 vehicles with tinted glasses in Markurdi, the Benue state capital as a demonstration of its commitment to enforcing the rule. In the operation that lasted more than four hours and caught many car owners napping, the public relations officer of the Benue State Police Command, Ezeala Daniel, a deputy superintendent of police, reportedly said that the police acted on a directive from the headquarters in line with the Tinted Glass Act, which prohibits unauthorised persons from using tinted vehicle glasses.
Those affected in the exercise included House of Assembly members, relations of National Assembly members from the state, local government chairmen and other political office holders.
To boot, in what appeared as if police was winning the war on tinted glasses, a Karu Senior Magistrates’ Court recently sentenced four men to two months imprisonment each for the illegal use of tinted glasses on their vehicles. The sentence came after Abbas Bello, Isa Mohammed, Wale Aderinto and Joseph Ogbonna pleaded guilty to the one-count charge preferred against them under Section 2 (D) of the Road Traffic Act.
Senior Magistrate Bashir Alkali, who passed the sentence, however, gave the convicts the option of N5,000 fine each. During the one-day trial, the police prosecutor, Eze Ugwuchukwu, told the court that the convicts were arrested by a police patrol team on April 4, in different parts of Abuja.
Ugwuchukwu said Mohammed, Aderinto and Ogbonna were each arrested with various cars with registration numbers BT 247 GWA, ABC 536 AE and BWR 270 AG, respectively.
The prosecutor added that the fourth convict, Bello, was arrested with an unregistered Infinity SUV also with tinted glasses. After listening to the charges, the four men, who were arraigned collectively, pleaded guilty.
Notwithstanding the latest enforcement, many still believe that the arrest and prosecution of owners of cars with tinted glasses is unjustifiable. They noted that it would only lead to meting out injustice on innocent motorists by the police. â€¨â€¨However, while some motorists have removed the tints on their windows, others are yet to comply on the grounds that theirs are factory fitted.
Although the current directive did not make any reference to factory fitted glasses, a motorist, Okey Uzoechina, who spoke to THISDAY hoped he won’t be disturbed by the police. He noted that since the former IG's waiver on factory fitted tints was not revoked by Abubakar, the police have no reason whatsoever to disturb him.
But as a back up plan, he noted that he still has the former advertorial placed by the police in some national dailies shielding those whose car tints are factory made. â€¨â€¨Another motorist, Segun Adio, wondered how tinted glasses could be linked to security lapses. According to him, the rule was tantamount to other rules which was made but never enforced like the use of helmets for commercial motorcyclists and sirens in cars.â€¨
â€¨He doubted that the enforcement would last for a long time saying, “I am not worried because it would go the way others went. Look at the ban on the use of motorcycles in Lagos. Don’t you notice that the motorcyclists are coming back?â€¨â€¨ The law is just another way the authorities want to add to the suffering of the masses as this new directive would only give room for corrupt practices in the force."
â€¨â€¨Another motorist, Aminu Hassan, said the law was just another way the police devised to fleece innocent motorists of their hard earned money. â€¨â€¨Although he admitted that undisputedly armed robbers might actually use tinted glasses to cover their identities, he however said it is inexcusable to use the excesses of a few to punish the majority. â€¨â€¨He said that to address the security situation, the government needs intelligence amongst the citizens and not just bring out laws that will make them uncooperative.
“The police needs the people to get information. It is not useful to scare them away. Since most cars are manufactured with tinted glasses, an identification system should be put in place to allow such motorists register their cars. â€¨â€¨
But as the police intensify efforts to arrest and prosecute defaulters, the Lagos State police spokesman, Ngozi Braide, a deputy superintendent of police, maintained that the job of the police was to enforce the laws made for the society.