By Deborah Tochukwu Anaelechi
One will agree that the major challenge when faced with change is adaptability. Likewise, the transition of going abroad for a first-time Nigerian traveller comes with mixed reactions. Thoughts on new neighbourhood, cuisine, culture shock, host people, time frame, language, so on, will be of concern as he begins to start the familiar, yet, foreign phase all over again to be acquainted with the new environment. One of such phases, which can be daunting, is driving a vehicle when outside Nigeria.
No matter how apt your driving skills are back home, once you step your feet in a foreign land, you are regarded as a rookie until tested otherwise. In another angle some citizens find it difficult obtaining their Nigerian Driver’s License to allow them to drive while in Nigeria. But this is about to change.
Some weeks ago, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), under the leadership of Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) reached an understanding on the ease of driving and licensing for diasporans upon their arrival in Nigeria. According to the Assistant Corps Commandant (ACC) Owoechukwu Chukwuna, the effort is aimed at designing a hitch-free exercise for diasporans to have their National Driver’s License while in Nigeria. In addition, the FRSC, in another development, has plans to initiate the Driving Reciprocity Scheme (which is done in the US, some European countries and other countries), to afford Nigerians moving abroad, with valid National Driver’s License, the ability to drive cars (using the right-hand side) abroad without reapplying for a driving course over there.
This simply means that Nigerians living abroad, returning home for business, pleasure, or both (yes, you can have your cake and eat it too!) can get their driver’s license during their stay easily and in the shortest period possible. This is a relief as most diasporans come back, indulge in their current locale and get the best experience it has to offer. In my opinion, having a vehicle and driving around in it will, ordinarily, save the ever-wavering transport fare, should you opt for public or commercial transportation.
The second effort by the FRSC is the introduction of the Driving Reciprocity Scheme. Now with this scheme, Nigerians opting to travel abroad will be able to drive if given the opportunity. However, there are terms and conditions- the first, a Certificate of Completion must be issued to the student from an approved and authorising driving school after a series of driving lessons and tests. Secondly, with the certificate, the individual will be issued a valid Driver’s License which he (or she) can present to the counterpart road safety agency overseas. The third condition points that this scheme can only be applicable in countries vehicles drive on the right-hand side.
The left-hand and right-hand driving in bi-directional traffic, are acts of maintaining the left side or to the right side of the road when driving, respectively. It is a key element in driving referred to as the rule of the road (these are rules controlling the direction in which two vehicles should follow on meeting to avoid collision). Left-hand drive vehicles keep to the left, with vehicles appearing to be on the right-hand side from an exterior view and, driving in roundabouts, here, are done in a clockwise motion. But everything is reversed when it comes with a right-hand drive vehicles: the vehicles keep to the right, the vehicle appears to be on the left-hand side from an exterior view, and roundabouts are moved in a counterclockwise motion. For the sake of clarity, Nigeria is one of the countries that operate the left-hand drive but drives on the right (because we drive on the ride side of the road); though that had not always been the case. What happened, you ask? Let us go on a bit of history, shall we?
Historically, it is obscure why people kept to the left or right while moving but most people (about 90 per cent) are said to be right-handed; therefore, keeping to the right was borne out of convenience. In 1756, the English Law ( of the London Bridge Act) made its first reference of the left-hand drive (when carts and wagons were the then means of transportation in the UK) regarding the London Bridge. In 1835, this law became an addition into the Highway Act and adopted in all parts of the Great Britain. Years later, the United Kingdom still has remained left-handed when driving; though, in the late 1960s, the British Department for Transport wanted to switch to right-hand drive but declared it dangerous and expensive for such a country that has been structurally planned. Nigeria (and other West African countries), by colonisation from the British Empire operated right-hand drive vehicles until 2nd April 1972, when Nigerians moved to operate the left-hand drive vehicles. As it is, the National Road Traffic Regulation (2004) section 71 states that “no vehicle with apparatus fitted on the right-hand side shall be registered or driven on public roads”, which to FRSC, makes it dangerous to both the user and other road users.
Currently, 166 countries (namely Afghanistan, Albania, the US, Canada, Italy, France, Georgia, Switzerland, Israel, the Netherlands, Cambodia, Niger Republic, to mention but a few), drive on the right side of the road, like Nigeria. This stride will make driving universally accessible for Nigerians whenever they find themselves in the diaspora. The US, for example, is recognising the Nigerian Driver’s License.
This initiative from NiDCOM and FRSC deserve a pat on the back; whether or not it is in motion. The fact that it is ideated calls for applause, in anticipation of making this vision into existence. With its realisation, Nigerians can drive in that fancy Mustang, Ford SUV or any car of their fancy, hit the open roads and enjoy the warm welcoming breeze, to a new adventure in a foreign land. Just imagine.
Deborah Tochukwu Anaelechi
Staff Writer, Media and Public Relations Unit