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Outcry as FG mandates car ownership renewal

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By Abraham Adekunle

Citizens say that the policy is insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.

As Nigerians are dealing with the outcome of the fuel subsidy removal, the Federal Government has announced the introduction of an annual fee of N1,000 to be paid by motorists in the country for Proof of Ownership Certificate (POC) verification. This was after the meeting of the Joint Tax Board on May 9, 2023. The Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Abdulhafiz Toriola, revealed this to Lagosians on June 27, 2023. Toriola also announced that the commencement of the annual renewal of the proof of ownership certificate for vehicles registered within the state would start from July 1, 2023.

He stated that the certificate would help vehicle owners and the government to guarantee the integrity of all vehicles registered on the National Vehicle and Identification Scheme database, as well as track car theft and recover stolen vehicles. The secretary said that the certificate is in compliance with the legal requirements that are fundamental to transparency, security and accountability within the transportation network. It was based on this that the government introduced this policy. The POC will contain vital information, including the vehicle’s registration details, such as licence plate numbers, models, year of manufacture, and the basic information of the owner.

Many car owners react against to this policy.

When the news was announced, it triggered another round of controversy in addition to the one created by the result of fuel subsidy removal, which had been announced much earlier before implementation. The new policy has generated reactions from various quarters, especially on social media platforms. Some opined that the policy is insensitive to the plight of the common man. According to them, Nigerians are still grappling with the reality of the removal of fuel subsidy. The removal almost tripled the price of premium motor spirit (PMS), causing an increase in cost of transportation and a rise in price of commodities.

They argued that it was ill-conceived of the government to impose another fee on citizens. This is especially when the traction created by the rise in price of PMS has not settled. Obviously, this did not sit well with many. A concerned resident of Lagos said that the latest policies have affected the cost of transportation and essential goods and services, but the income of most salary earners remains the same. So, these people urged the government to revisit the policy.

There are still others in favour of the annual fee.

On the flip side, there are those who believe that the Federal Government has the right to generate revenue for the effective running of government and its infrastructure. However, they believe that the timing was wrong. They argued that Nigerians are still grappling with the fallouts of the fuel subsidy removal policy, and that introducing the vehicle proof of ownership renewal at this point in time was ill-timed. The president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shetima, believed that the government had done nothing abnormal, but he stressed that money realized from such taxation must not be mismanaged.

But the majority of Nigerians were against the policy for one reason or another. Some believe that the people are over-taxed and adding any extra tax in any form would amount to overburdening the poor masses. Another concerned resident of Lagos and car owner himself could not fathom the usefulness and purpose of renewing his vehicle’s proof of ownership when other documents already prove that he is the owner of the vehicle. “Does not renewing it mean that I no longer own my car?” he inquired.

NBA team to examine if the policy is legal.

Meanwhile, amidst the mixed reactions, the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest Law (NBA SPIDEL) has set up a team to examine the legality of the imposition of N1,000 annual proof of ownership fee on vehicle owners. According to a joint statement by the chairman and secretary of NBA-SPIDEL, the team will critically examine the legality of the policy in according to their mandate, one of which is to defend the interest of the public against oppressive and illegal policies of public authorities.

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