A fortnight ago, a young 35years old man simply known as George    called me a forth night ago with an appeal to assist him procure a driver’s license. When I enquired if it was for a fresh license, his response that it was for renewal shocked me, as I was convinced that as a holder of a driver’s license he should be conversant with the procedure. Notwithstanding this, I  advised him to go to any of the five centers here in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital but was shocked when he interrupted with a funny smile on his face saying ,’’bros,please I am too busy for the long process involved and would rather give a consultant to process it for me. Despite my disappointment at his mindset, I politely informed him that the process for renewing a driver’s license is not cumbersome unlike that for a fresh driver’s license. I equally advised him against applying for renewal or even fresh license by proxy, which is illegal and unauthorized, stressing the danger of applying by proxy as he would end up paying three times the normal cost of N6350 besides being given a drivers license which is not genuine.

George is one among the numerous number of people who call daily asking for assistance on the same kind of excuse given by George. Some would even offer to pay you any amount so long as you can save them the rigor of going through a process meant  to fast track  the FRSC promise to restore the integrity of the drivers license since the Federal Road Safety Commission commenced the new licensing regime in line with the pledge by the Management of the Commission to restore the integrity of the system.

Recall that the new motor vehicle administration regime remains a necessity since 1990 when it was imperative to harmonize and unify all existing modes of licensing of drivers and vehicle registration. The scheme set out to address plethora of safety, security enforcement challenges such as absence of database on vehicles owners and enhanced capacity for enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. When the new regime took effect on 1st March 2015, critics  questioned the rationale for the introduction citing initial hiccups especially with respect to the fewer centers that were available that could not cope with the pressure caused  by the eagerness on the part of motorists and the deadline that was set for a change over to the new regime.

There was also the problem caused by slow and interrupted network. All of these have been resolved and today, I am excited to recall my experience on an interactive programme,where a caller was elated when he recalled his experience when he travelled abroad and was told he could exchange his Nigerian driver’s license as a valid permit within his one month stay. This is in line with the reciprocity which we now have with severally countries in the European Union and most states in the United States of America which recognizes our drivers’ license because of its standard which is comparable with any in the world.

Back to the focus for this week which is the rule for fresh applicants. The relevant traffic regulation such as the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012, Regulations 45(2),52(1)and(2),50(1)and45(3)(e) provide for an applicant for the driver’s license to meet the following conditions be 18 years and above, be physically and mentally fit, pass a driving test and pay the prescribed fee. However, the law has also made special provision for age limit of applicants for commercial or professional drivers licence(not below the age of 26-Regulation 45(4)). After these, such an applicant will then qualify for a driver’s license valid for three years. However, in the face of the spate of road crashes in the country and the need conceptualized new ideas in keeping within global best practice, the Corps through the driving school standardization programme made it mandatory for fresh applicants to attend certified and approved driving school. Specifically, the National Road Traffic Regulations 2004 mandates all learner drivers to observe the following rules: attend a certified and approved driving school as a prerequisite to obtaining a fresh drivers license.

As part of the strategy to improve the process, the rule was amended specifically with respect to fresh applicants. The new rule requires applicants obtaining a Drivers License for the first time must  do the following; attend a training at FRSC accredited Driving school for at least 26 working days, after which they will be presented by the Driving school to the Vehicle Inspection Officer/Road Traffic Officers for a driving test. Applicants must pass the driving test and obtain a certificate of proficiency for the new license from the VIO. After this, applicants will make payment online via the pay4me or make direct payment through the platforms at any bank. The applicant will then submit completed forms to the State Board of Internal Revenue for endorsement, collect payment receipt for State Board of Internal Revenue where applicable and Proceed to the Drivers License Center for biometric data capture. After the biometric exercise, applicants will obtain temporary Drivers License and pick up the original License at the State Board of Internal Revenue office after 60 days.

Meanwhile while still learning, the learner driver must display an ‘L’-plate for learner, which is a square plate bearing a sans- serif letter ‘L’ for learner, which must be affixed to the front and back of a vehicle in many countries, if the driver is a learner under instruction or a motorcycle rider with provisional entitlement to ride restricted motorcycles.

What this means is that this rule is a universal convention with slight variations from country to country. In the case of Nigeria, section 27, subsections 1-3 of the National Road Traffic Regulations earlier cited spells out the details as applicable to learner drivers. For the purpose of this piece, let me stress here that besides displaying an ‘L’ sign, a learner driver when issued a learners permit, must be accompanied by a licensed driver-instructor sitting beside him to drive a vehicle or type stated in the permit from a period not exceeding three months from the date of issue on the highways specified in the permit. Besides, the permit in itself forbids the learner from carrying any person no matter the level of affiliation except the instructor. In addition, the learner-driver must at all times comply with relevant traffic rules and regulations. Unfortunately, these provisions are daily abused by learner-drivers who no doubt display the ‘L’ sign yet disregard the other provisions meant for their safety and the safety of others. The highflying learners on their own don’t display the ‘L’ sign and arrogantly violate all other provisions. It is even strange that other motorists expose themselves to unnecessary risks by offering to drive in such vehicles. It is also strange that women by our findings in the course of patrols rank among the greatest offenders when it comes to infractions that have to do with learner-drivers. It is very common to see women who are learner-drivers on Sunday and during school run flout all safety precautions by carrying children in such vehicles and even doing the same on their way to worship centers

The three stage Graduated driver’s license is the first in the country and an improvement from what had existed before now. It is broken into three parts the first part is the pre adult (18-25) years category. Those within this group after complying with the relevant tests and other procedures as stated in the quoted sections, if found suitable, are issued with a drivers license that is renewal after every year. Class B licence. The second is the adult (26-64) years category is renewal every three (3) years. Only applicants within this category are qualified to apply for a commercial driver’s license.

However, for such applicants who already possess a class B (private) to qualify for a commercial driver’s license they must belong to a transport union, attend a driving school and pass a medical test government hospital. The last category is the post adult meant for people between the age of 65 years and above. Like the pre adult category, this group’s driver’s license is renewal every year after proof of medical fitness.

The rule for applicants applying for a renewal requires for renewal of Drivers License requires applicants to obtain relevant forms at the State board of Internal Revenue. They can also complete the form online at www.nigeriadriverslicence.org and print the form. Applicants will make the payment online via pay4me or pay direct payment platforms or at any bank after which the applicant will submit completed forms to the VIO/Board of internal revenue for endorsement and collect payment receipt from the State Board of Internal Revenue where applicable. Just like the case of fresh applicants, he will proceed to the Drivers License Centre for biometric data capture, obtain temporary Drivers License and pick up the original License at the State Board of Internal Revenue Office after 60 days. Last week, I cited the example of Australia.

The process is similar with what obtains in some other climes. In British Columbia following the instructional phase and after passing a road test, new drivers are required to show a green N (novice) plate until they have passed an additional road test usually after 24 months.

In British Columbia a red L (for learner) plate is required for 12 months before the N can be issued, and new drivers with this marking are not permitted to drive without a licensed driver over the age of 25 present in the vehicle. In the case of France, after passing their driving test, learners must display an a plate (for apprentice) for three years 2 years for those who learned with their parents. In the case of the United Kingdom, all new drivers in Great Britain upon receipt of a provisional license, must display L plates at all times and be accompanied by another driver who is over 21 years of age and has held a full and valid license for the type of vehicle being driven for at least three years. In Wales, either red L plates or red D plates are permitted due to the bilingual legislation in force within the country, while a learner is driving the vehicle. After learners have passed a driving test for the appropriate vehicle, they may opt to display green P plate (P for passed) to show that they have less experience than other driver. These plates are voluntary and not required by law or the high way code. L plate are required to be displayed at all times whilst riding a motorcycle or moped of no more than 125cc (7.6 cu in) after passing motorcycle compulsory basic training (CBT). This sub licence allows the holder to ride any motorcycle up to 125cc without a full and proper license. Therefore it is mainly used by younger motorist (16-19) who are legally allowed to ride motorcycles up to 125cc but cannot afford to buy full lessons to gain a restricted license (enabling the holder to travel on motorways and  carry pillion passenger but only able to ride motor bikes up to 33hp 25kw after 2 years). Riders over 21 may opt to train for full license therefore a CBT is just a stepping stone to this.

The story in Northern Ireland is almost similar. One year after the passing a driver test the driver is defined as a restricted driver who must not must not exceed 45mph and must display an “R plate” consisting of a red sans serif R on a white back ground L plates in Northern Ireland commonly have an R plate as a reverse side R plate drives are often viewed as a nuisance on motorways, due to their limited speed resulting in many restricted driver not displaying their R plate or not keeping to the restricted limit. In the republic of Ireland, you can obtain a learners permit at the age of 17. Before applying for your first learners permit you must pass a computerized Driver Theory Test