A clients car was involved in an accident where in the driver ran over a child of less than three years somewhere in Owerri. As soon as I learnt the baby was dead I knew it was going to be along case to be resolved. I set in with my over 10 years experience as a lawyer. The driver was kept in custody for tempers to cool and for the peace to be maintained. This is one of the most difficult part of the Job for the Police. Though the matter is ordinarily bailable as long as the car is impounded, however, things may spiral beyond control if families of the dead discover that the killer driver was allowed to go home to breath an air of freedom while the dead is lying at the mortuary. So no problem about that, I beckoned on the bewildered driver to be patient and watch things unfold.
As usual I set out with a condolence to the family of the dead little child. Four days after, we were at the Police station with the family still fuming. I gave them the two straight options available to them. 1. Is to insist on pressing a charge against the driver who was still in custody. 2. Is to accept the futility that charge or no charge the baby is dead, forgive the driver and seek cooperation on how to offset the cost of burial and etc. After a lot of debate the family chose the second. We set out negotiating and a fee of N250,000 was agreed as compensation fee to carter for the hospital and burial cost. That done, the father of the child made an affidavit stating he does not intend to pursue any charge against the driver.
Then came the major problem. The Police Traffic department. Though bail is free, I am one man who accepts the challenges the officers and men of the Nigerian Police face in Nigeria. Everybody in Nigeria, even their superiors know that the Nigerian Police is not equipped to run without getting some money from members of the public. Bail is not free in the real sense of it. Take my word to the Bank. I told the IPO how much I appreciated his pains in helping to visit FMC, spending time to see that the corpse is deposited at the mortuary and inspecting the scene of the accident all without any provision by his employers. I told him what I was offering to secure the bail of the driver after 6 day in custody and to release the vehicle on bond. To my surprise I was told I would have to pay N150,000. When I inquired what the money was meant for, I was told they would need to pay N40,000 just for VIO inspection of the vehicle. After serious dragging with the IPO, he decided I settle the issue with his superior.
Meeting his superior, I was told I would need to pay N50,000 for just the bail of the driver and N100,000 for VIO Inspection. I drew their attention to the fact that the father of the child has written via an affidavit against any interest in pressing a charge against the driver, so investigation is closed. What else do we need a VIO Inspection for? I was told it was the standard procedure. I let them know the employers of the driver has incurred unnecessary expenses arising from his negligence and may not be willing to employ him, so why charge an outrageous fee for a tragedy no one is happy about? Why should the parties all grieve and groan only for the Nigerian Police Force to rather merry on having a good meal?
I asked them, if it is standard procedure for the Police to do a VIO inspection for investigation of an accident involving fatality? Why should an accused person bear the cost for his investigation and prosecution? No answers were given. Rather the Police Superior officer asked me to go and ask my colleagues who have handled accident matters how they used to do it if I hadn’t done so before. The worst was when he told me, a Magistrate even paid N80,000 for VIO Inspection how much more myself. There in the office, I told him I do not need the bail of the driver anymore since the complainant has withdrawn his case. I challenged them to continue detaining the driver even after the complainant had withdrawn the case and after the driver had spent over 6 days in custody.
When I left, I told the IPO I have the capacity to secure the release of the driver and the vehicle, but that I only chose that we resolve the issues without having a face-off. I left, and was on the verge of writing to the able Commissioner of Police Imo State. Within an hour, they setup the driver to call my clients, telling them I was proving recalcitrant and wanted him to spend extra days in the cell. Finally my client’s went and the Police released him and the vehicle for the same thing I offered them earlier. Finally they didnt ask nor do a VIO Inspection and no such fee was charged or paid.
Please Note. That when you renew your vehicle, a chunk of the revenue is earmarked for the Ministry of Transport of the various states. The Vehicle Inspection Office VIO officers are employees of the Ministry of Transport. Upon renewing your vehicle license for the year, you are issued a Certificate of Road Worthiness. Once it is up to date, it is conclusive proof that your vehicle has been inspected and is licensed to be on the road for the one year stated. For the purpose of clarity the first paragraph of your Certificate of Road Worthiness reads;
“I hereby certify that I have examined the vehicle described below which in all respects conform to the requirement of the Road Traffic Regulations, and that it is Road Worthy and suitably constructed for use as a Private Car”
With this certificate, the Police need not subject any vehicle involved in an accident to further VIO inspection unless the vehicle is not up to date. A Certificate of Road Worthiness up to date and duly issued by the VIO office is conclusive proof or evidence that the vehicle is licensed to ply the Nigerian roads for the year stated. Therefore let no one extort money from you upon the grounds that your vehicle must undergo a VIO inspection because an accident occurred. In any case, if the VIO inspection is necessary in an accident case, it is for the benefit of the Police to conduct a conclusive investigation. Consequently, the Police must find a way to get what they want from the VIO and should not task the ordinary citizen who has been adversely affected by an accident. That would amount to double tragedy. It is not our law that a suspect pays for his investigation leading to his possible prosecution.
Don’t let anyone extort you.