We have seen people put social media to use in different ways in different areas of the world. Digital marketing. Customer support. Activism. The list is longer than I care to spell out. Lagos motorists are using crowd-sourced information on social media to beat vehicle inspection officers who harass them on the roads daily.
If you have lived in Lagos – or anywhere in Nigeria for that matter – you will be familiar with the legion of officers from a legion of government agencies who randomly stop vehicles for one check or the other. The list includes, but is not limited to, the Police, VIO (vehicle inspection officers), and FRSC (Federal Road Safety Commission). It is almost impossible to drive for longer than 10 minutes in Lagos without running into officers of these agencies flagging down vehicles.
In summary, the Lagos motorist is continually in a state of harassment from these officers, many of whom are outright rude – and in many cases ignorant of the very law that they claim to uphold. And as every Lagos motorist knows, the goal of these stop operations is often revenue generation. In many cases, the revenue generated does not even end up in government coffers. These stop operations are often well orchestrated shake-down operations.
Lagos motorists have found an interesting use for social media – to report sightings of these officers so that other road users can find alternative routes. Here is a tweet that presents an idea of how the whole thing works:
@VioSightings VIO officials are at Alaka service lane towards stadium,take d express & turn at ojuelegba if ure going to surulere
— Y.O. (@yojora) March 8, 2017
The social media updates can also be followed via the hashtags #VIOSightings or #FRSCSightings.
Here is another example of a VIO Sighting report on Twitter:
— 'konyinsola (@SolaSleem) March 8, 2017
It can be argued that instead of burning energy on a movement of this sort, Lagos motorists should just ensure that their vehicles and particulars are in order. Fair argument. Still, it does not excuse the heavy acts of extortion and abuse that go on under the guise of road stops and checks.
In a country where heavy-handed, corrupt public officers are often the accuser, judge, jury and executioner rolled into one, justice is a rare commodity when citizens find themselves in the hands of VIO officers and others.
As such, the excitement behind this new movement is somewhat understandable. Citizens are doing whatever they can to keep themselves out of the mouth of officers that they perceive as sharks and vultures.
One person sums up the sentiments of Lagos motorists involved in this movement this way:
Whoever came up with this account @VioSightings will live long 😂. If you sight any VIO or FRSC vultures. Tweet at them.
— Lawal Lateef D. (@Latchenko) March 7, 2017