Nigeria police’s latest car registration effort, which has drawn outrage over its mandatory N3, 500 charge on motorists, was founded on a shady process that involved police authorities rejecting a far more affordable alternative that would have cost only N500, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
After its repeated failure at rolling out the digitalized car registry, the police finally received a proposal for the job from a local tech firm that offered to exclusively fund the project, train police personnel, and charge Nigerians only N500 per car.
At the rate, PREMIUM TIMES has found, estimated profit for the project would have been N50 per unit, to be shared equally between the police and the firm, according to a Memorandum of Understanding reached by both sides in 2011.
But the force has since unilaterally jettisoned that agreement, and now stipulates a new cost of N3,500-about 600 percent higher- for the registration of every car under the scheme, in violation of a senate decision in 2012, ordering the suspension of the charge.
At N3, 500 per user, police authorities will net about N140 billion from Nigerians, based on estimates by the Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC, that Nigeria is home to between 35 million and 40 million cars. The amount does not include the N1, 500 charged per motorcycle.
The police has not provided explanations why it raised the cost of the project by 600 percent, or why it discarded the agreement with the tech firm.
Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, denied that the project was ever approved for N500, or that it was opposed by the Senate. He said the initial consideration was N5, 000, but was only reviewed downwards by the current Inspector General of police, Mohammed Abubakar, as a mark of “respect to Nigerians”.
“Nobody said N500, otherwise the media would have come up with the evidence by now,” Mr. Mba said.
But through interviews with the force personnel, and other government officials, as well as the review of several project-related documents, PREMIUM TIMES has obtained damning details that now raise serious questions about the true intent of the registration project.
The police claims the technology will naturally be deployed against crime and terrorism. But a distrustful public has accused the force of imposing an extra burden on Nigerians, for a purpose already served by the FRSC, and whose main drive is certain to be monetary.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, agreed to by the police and the company, 2TOC Solution Limited, the police was to spend no kobo on the scheme, beyond providing the firm with an operational accommodation, identification for its staff, and making available the police’s communication infrastructure, the documents show.
In turn, the firm was to provide the required funding, train police personnel in the relevant department, and operate the scheme for a minimum of five years.
“The RCCS Project cost is Four Hundred and Fifty Naira (N450.00) in every Five Hundred Naira to which a profit of Fifty Naira (N50.00) on every registration shall accrue; this shall be shared on a 50:50 basis between the parties; and shall be remitted to the force on quarterly basis,” the MOU, authored by the police legal department, and signed by the two sides on January 25, 2011, said.
While Audu Abubakar, a Deputy Inspector General of police, and Jubril Adeniji, a Commissioner of Police, signed for the Nigeria Police, Benson Olatunji, 2TOC’s Chief Executive Officer, and Abba Kasim, the company’s Executive Director, signed for the tech firm.
The amount agreed then, is a far cry from the N3, 500 the police is currently asking the public to pay for the registration.
The exercise is expected to cover the cost of creating a digital data record and backup, a plastic identification card and hand-held verification device, prospects the police says will prove key against car theft and terrorism.
But beyond raising the cost of the proposed registration, PREMIUM TIMES has found how the entire project has been riddled with police’s flouting of instructions and advice, including those from the Senate and the Joint Tax Board.
The first opposition to the project came from the Joint Tax Board in 2011. The Board, which harmonizes the various taxes payable by the public, said in 2011 that the scheme was “laudable” as the nation faced insecurity, but advised that the N500 per head be financed by the police, and not by Nigerians.
“..Nigeria police should finance and own the project since the project is laudable and will enhance national security,” the board said in December 2011 letter.
That position was followed months later by a motion by the Senate, asking that the project be suspended. Both instructions were flouted.
While the police pushed on with the project against the Senate’s opposition, it did so at public cost against the advice of the Joint Tax Board, and even so, at an outlandish rate more than the Board opposed.
Senators are said to be considering a new motion on the case. A spokesperson for the senate, Enyinayya Abaribe, did not respond to our calls for confirmation.
The controversy over the registration project dates back to the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and stretched into the Umaru Yar’Adua government.
Both administrations rejected the plan as illegal, and advised the police to team with the FRSC for a centralized, digitalized car registration.
The latest project began in 2010 after 2TOC Solution Limited contacted the police and sought to partner with the force for the plan, according to police official records.
PREMIUM TIMES has obtained letters showing how former Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, was first briefed about the programme in 2010, and how he approved the project after he became convinced it would help tackle car bombings and theft.
After the endorsement, the prototype was demonstrated before police authorities and the media, and the sum of N500 was announced as unit price, culminating in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two sides.
According to the MOU, the police and the technology firm were to deliver on their responsibilities for the deal.
But while the company began deploying its equipment and staff to commence work, the police withheld its staff from the agreed training and did not budge throughout 2011 and 2012.
Throughout the period, police officials reportedly said the proposal was still being considered and would soon take off.
What followed was the decision by the force in 2013, to unilaterally roll out the plan, defying the senate resolution, and the Joint Tax Board.
A spokesperson for 2TOC, Soji Bamidele, declined to comment for this story, but however confirmed our findings that the company had an agreement with the police to implement the project.