The General Manager, Lagos State Drivers Institute (LASDRI), Mrs. Afusat Abike Tiamiyu is a charismatic, amiable, committed and visionary leader. In this exclusive interview with Rotimi Asher in her office, she shed more light on how the Institute ensures that those who earn their living attain professionalism and what she is doing to reposition the agency for better performance.
In a megacity like Lagos, it is expedient to have an institute of this sort to put sanity on our roads due to the recklessness and incompetence of some drivers. What really are the functions of Lagos State Drivers’ Institute?
Lagos State Drivers’ Institute is an agency under the ministry of transportation with the statutory responsibility of Drivers education, Drivers training, Public Education research and development. We all know quite well that there is a lot of problem on our roads: carelessness, recklessness and lawlessness on the part of ill-trained drivers. Having put so much value in the life of citizens, Lagos State Government set up this place to take drivers to classroom environments yearly to enhance their needs for training and improve their driving skills.
We have three windows for enrolling drivers for training here. (1) Mandatory professional Drivers’ training programme. Like you may know, we are set up by law. The law says if you are driving for a living, you must pass through Lagos State Drivers Institute before you can drive in the state. I mean those who are earning their living through driving, be it private drivers, commercial vehicles drivers, corporate organizations drivers and Public service drivers. In as much as you are collecting your pay by driving, the law says you have to pass through this institute annually towards updating your skills. The institute is run with a curriculum.
You know there are different categories of drivers; those who are driving cars, articulated vehicles drivers, ambulances, school bus drivers and others. The reason why these drivers must undergo training in the institute is that the State Government wants sanity on our roads. The training will enable them to know their dos and don’ts while driving.
There is a need to educate these drivers that driving is not just for commoners but for professionals. It is a profession. They must be proud of it like other professionals. Apart from teaching them the technicalities in driving, we want people to put value in a driving job as well. We are professionalizing driving with what we are doing here. The curriculum is all-encompassing. That is the number one window. It attracts the cost of just N2, 000 which is highly subsidized. At the end of the training section, we usually issue what we call the Lagos State Driving Institute Recertification card by law. Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) and Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) are permitted by law to enforce for us. What that means is that if you don’t want to be embarrassed by these agencies as a professional driver, you need to comply with what the law says.
The second window is a short training programme, a well-structured advanced training programme for truck drivers, ambulances drivers and emergency vehicle drivers. We have curriculum for the programme as well.
The third window is the rehabilitation window. If you are apprehended or accosted by LASTMA for contravening traffic law in Lagos State, the law says they should be sent for a rehabilitation course for two days in the institute. These are the three areas we are concentrating on.
Do they pay for the rehabilitation training?
Yes, they pay N2,000 payable to the bank. LSDI does not collect cash.
The rehabilitation training, is it punitive?
It is not punitive. It is like a refreshing course. If they come free of charge, they will not attach importance to it. You know the institute is not a revenue-generating agency but for people to add value, that is why we are charging a token. If you look at the kind of training and service we give, it is more than the amount we charge. The amount is subsidized. They also undergo eye tests because we believe the eye is very important to driving. About 95% of what you require in driving is so connected to the eye. So, we have optometry right in here that checks the eyes of the drivers yearly.
Like the mandatory N2, 000 and the card, if you look at the cost of that card, it is the evidence that you have passed through this institute and you have been trained. It is not a driving License. Looking at the process of getting a driver’s license, you will find out that some do not pass through the normal channel. What the government is saying is, no matter how you get your license, you still need to pass through Lagos State Drivers Institute if you want to drive on the streets of Lagos. You still need to through the elementary rudiment of driving. We teach road traffic signs and regulations, traffic laws, how to wade through different driving environments. That includes the way you are going to drive when it is raining and other things you need to know about driving. It is really an interesting and all-encompassing training.
What classes of drivers are qualified to attend the institute?
Those who are earning their living through driving. The fact that you know how to drive does not make you a professional driver. You must be earning money through driving to become a professional. I am referring to corporate organizations, commercial vehicles, Public service drivers. These are the classes of drivers the institute is meant for.
What has been the response of corporate organizations? Are they aware that they need to send their drivers to this institute?
We have been on in the last twelve years. Most corporate organizations are aware of the institute and they have been sending their drivers here annually.
It’s like it is compulsory for every professional driver in Lagos State to pass through the institute but there are drivers who do not deem it necessary to come here for the training especially the commercial drivers, what are you doing to make them comply?
The long hand of the law will catch them and they will be compelled to submit themselves for training. For those who are not really complying, law enforcement agencies like LASTMA and VIO are always on the roads to check drivers. As they check their driving license and other particulars, they also demand an LASDI card.
Sometimes, LASTMA is carried away by the desire to extort something from these commercial drivers, do they actually check for LASDI cards?
The government of the day doesn’t want traffic officials to embarrass people anyhow on the road. When the need arises, they ask for it.
How many drivers have you trained so far in the last twelve years?
Like I told you, we have been operating for twelve years now. From our database, our records show that we have been able to train 432, 047 drivers. The impact of the training has generated a positive response from these drivers’ employers. We do not even force these companies. They send their drivers voluntarily and we have been told that since they have been sending their drivers to the institute, they have not been involved in any road crashes. In addition to other things, we also take them on driver’s etiquette on the road. That is how encompassing the training is.
It may also interest you to know that some of these organizations ask us to recruit drivers for them. Apart from that, we also recommend drivers for them and conduct assessments for those they recruit.
I must commend your Institute for being able to train the numbers you mentioned earlier but I am thinking the numbers would have been higher if you are doing enough campaigns, what is your take on this?
We have actually been doing a campaign and we are going to do more. As we speak, we have paid advert on radio and television stations. If you listen to traffic radio every morning, you will find out that our advert is there. Every month, we go out to do public education for enlightenment at motor parks to let them see the reason why they must attend the institute. By tomorrow, we are going to do the ember months advocacy. We believe if we are able to train one driver, we are reducing accident by 100% because he would have known the dos and don’ts s on the road. Drivers’ education is very key to safe driving. What we want is sanity on Lagos roads. We do not want road crashes on Lagos roads. That is why we are emphasizing seriously on taking drivers through adequate training.
What relationship do you have with some of the agencies of government like LASTMA, VIO and FRSC?
We are agencies of government. We believe we are doing the same thing. They are enforcing why we are educating. There is a programme we are having tomorrow. We have invited LASTMA, VIS and Road Safety. The purpose is to create more synergy with these agencies. It is a kind of collaboration. When they do their programme, they invite us too. We work together to create sanity on the roads in Lagos State.
What role do you play in the issuance of a driving license?
The only area we are involved is the training of driving school instructors. You know we have certified driving schools in Lagos; those dealing with fist line drivers. I mean those who are learning to drive. For now, we have not started the training of first-line drivers. We are training those who already have driver’s licenses; bringing them to the classroom for re-orientation yearly.
For driving school owners, we do train the trainer programme for them every year. The issue of driver’s license is a tripartite arrangement between three agencies, FRSC, Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) and VIS. So, we do not play any major role in the issuance of driver’s license but for those who are training first-line drivers, the driving school in Lagos state, their training is done by LSDI. We usually do train the trainer programme for a driving school in Lagos State yearly.
What would you say has been your achievement since you were appointed two years ago?
When I came in here as General Manager, we had five centers in the five administrative area of Lagos State. This place is our headquarter. We have been able to have five other centers. I am still planning to expand more. We want to ensure that our facilities and training are accessible.
Before now, we didn’t have onsite programme but I introduced it. What do I mean? Those companies that couldn’t release their drivers to us for training because of distance or time, I set up a mobile team with instructors who go to the companies. After the training, we do their biometrics. We go with our equipment and facilities in order to bring our service to their doorsteps. The difference of the training is that we do not issue our card outside because of proliferation. We can do training for you at your convenience.
We are also trying to do our training online. Between now and month end, you will start seeing our training online. You can do your payment and train online. For those who have done their training before and want to do their renewal, you can get your training and card online but you still need to get the original here.
Before I came in, some of our facilities are not functioning well but with the timely intervention of the governor through my effort, we have been able to put them back in shape.
Can you tell us the challenges you have been contending with?
I did say this institute is for professional drivers; the only problem is that drivers are not responding as they should especially the commercial vehicles drivers. That is a major challenge. All others have been taken up by Lagos State government. We are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that commercial drivers comply by attending the training.
Can they be forced to comply?
They can through enforcement. That probably will be the next line of action if they are not. We are trying all we can to do that.
Apart from what you mentioned earlier, what are the other things you intend to do before leaving?
As the General Manager, I want a situation where LASDRI can be doing a certificate course for drivers. I intend to start training first-line drivers. As an institute of learning for drivers, we are supposed to be training first-line drivers too.
I mean those who want to learn to drive. I already sent a memo to the governor and that has been approved. The training will commence in September. Before this year runs out, we are going to commission a world-standard driving range. It’s not like we are trying to take jobs from the driving school. We are going to work together as partners to make Lagos roads safe for all citizens.
You are a mother, wife and General Manager LASDRI and that means you must be very busy. Do you have time to unwind? Do you go to parties?
Laughter… I am a socialite. I enjoy myself very well. I go to parties but I do not allow it to affect my family life. I am a good housewife. I take care of my children and husband. This does not affect my commitment to the work. I see my appointment as a privilege. My mission is to make LSDI better. I won’t relent until it is done.
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