Last week, Usman Baba, the Inspector-General of Police, announced the immediate suspension of tinted glass permits and the issue of SPY number plates in the country. According to him, some criminals have taken advantage of the license to perpetrate horrible crimes. “I’ve known of SPY plate number abuse and tainted windows,” Baba said. He further stated that SPY number plates are for the official use of certain types of corporate organisations, whilst tinted glass permissions are provided in accordance with certain regulatory rules.
The Inspector-General also noted the growing practice across the country, in which some motorists cover their license plates. “This practice obstructs law enforcement efforts and is hence unacceptable”, he declared. As a result, police commissioners have been authorised to arrest any motorist who is involved in this act.
The police authority’s stance on this matter is based on several laws and the necessity to properly manage contemporary security concerns in the land, and ultimately serve the common welfare of all Nigerians. According to CSP Frank Mba, a police spokesman, “surveillance reports and evidence-based facts and figures at the Police Force’s discretion implies that the majority of crimes relating to terrorism, bombings, kidnapping, gun-running, human trafficking, armed robbery, and other related offences are committed with the use of vehicles with tinted glasses, as culprits of these horrific crimes hide unidentified.”
In a country confronted with different heinous crimes including kidnappings, terrorism and resurgent rebel movement, this directive seems to be welcoming. Over the years, the indiscriminate use of tinted glasses and concealed plate numbers have aided criminal activities. It hides criminals and makes the job of law enforcement officers difficult. At many times, armed robbers and kidnappers have used cars with tinted glasses and concealed number plates to flee after terrorising the public.
There is, however, mixed reactions with this directive among many Nigerians, some of who believe it is another means to harass citizens. They assert that some of the justifications for glass tinting in a car are valid because it provides a measure of privacy for the users, and protects those with health challenges from sun radiation. Some also think it is uncalled for, since the use of tinted screens, including factory fitted ones, are regulated by the police.
Others see it as a positive development on the part of the police. A social media commended this directive by stating that “all those who conceal their license plate numbers be detained quickly. All of this insanity must come to an end immediately. In a sane country, everyone is important, not just a few people who are protected at the expense of others.” Another person commented thus: “Excellent. Kidnappers use tinted vehicles to transport their victims. So, I’m on board as far as this issue is concerned.
According to the Nigeria Police Force, kidnappers and robbers have used dark-tinted automobiles on many occasions. This resulted in the granting of the Tint Permit, which involves a visual verification of the car and, in the first instance, the extraction of the host’s biometrics. Glass darkening is prohibited for a variety of reasons, including safety concerns for car occupants and other commuters.
Furthermore, law enforcement officers must be able to view the people inside a car at all times. This could be for the reasons of a periodic search, or simply to make the users visible or for purposes of transparency. Initially, the Police only issued licences to vehicles with factory-tinted glass, but in recent years, non-factory-tinted glass has been allowed. Exemptions are granted for owners who have medical needs. In such cases, owners must present evidence from public health centres in order for the permit to be approved.
However, with the current security crisis in almost all states, it has become expedient to create a balance between the need for privacy and health comfort for vehicle owners and the overall security of the society. Thus, the IG insists that the issuing of SPY number plates and tinted glass licences will be banned, existing authorisations will be examined, and a procedure to govern the issue of such permissions will be developed.
He stated that a regulatory procedure will be created across the country in due course to ensure the harmonised process of issuing SPY number plates and tinted glass. In this sense, the Nigeria Police Force would closely collaborate with the leadership of the Federal Road Safety Commission. He added that henceforth, any departmental head, zonal commander, commissioner of police, or unit head found to be in violation of this directive will be severely dealt with.
The IG urges everyone to not only support the ban, but also to assist the government in enforcing it strictly. In this regard, presidents of town unions, traditional rulers, vigilante operatives, religious, and market leaders should be co-opted into its mobilisation and enforcement team, so that they can provide information to security authorities on a regular basis and educate citizens as well.
It is commendable that the government is expanding their areas of focus in security management. More steps along this line should be taken if the country truly desires to end the war against insecurity on a victorious note.