Mr Otonye Efebo, M.s.c., MA(Bucks); MBA (Wales) is the Managing Director/CEO of AA Rescue. With his task already cut out, he has been working with AA Rescue team to accomplish the company’s mission of building capacity and helping Nigerian companies to source and train the best drivers in town. Excerpts: WHAT is AA Rescue all about? We run a couple of programmes. We rescue people when they are stranded in the course of motoring. We operate 24/7 and have about 17 branches to ease the reach. It is not just in Lagos. We are in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Akure, Jos and Kano. We have branches all over the country. We intend to be in all major cities in Nigeria to ease motoring. We are not only involved in rescuing, but also we train drivers. What drivers basically need is capacity building. We have a driving school that is top in standard and can be compared to any. We want to raise our motoring culture to compare with any in the world. We are very concerned about our motoring culture. So, at AA Rescue, our aim is to change the driving culture of Nigerians. A lot of accidents occur because the drivers are not properly trained. Most of our problems are societal, so the core of our mission is to improve the driving culture of Nigerians. I am sure you work closely with the Federal Road Safety Corps? We work closely with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO). We have very good working relations. We been working together to improve the driving culture of Nigerians. We are a private concern, but we have been doing our bit. AA Rescue is not a money spinner, but because we have a passion to improve the driving culture of the country, we are tilted this way. How would you describe the driving test and certification process? There is an improvement. Now, you have to be tested and certified before a licence is issued but is the process orderly? Is it smooth? We have a huge population and for us to get it right, we need to do it right. It is a work in progress. We are very particular about the process of certification. We just don’t issue certificates; you must undergo testing before you are certified okay. A lot of companies depend on us to do that on their behalf, so it is our duty. Most companies ask us to test their drivers and certify them okay before they employ them or send their drivers to us for retraining. This is common with the oil companies, the banks and a lot of other corporates. This is the trend now in Nigeria. Things have really improved; training has looked up. It is important you train your drivers. Many firms are into transportation. It is lives we are talking about here. We don’t just leave it to chance. If we don’t get it right, we will lose valuable people due to carelessness and recklessness. It is important that you test your driver, and build his capacity always. It is also important that he gets the right training. It is your life and your safety that we are talking about. That cannot be compromised. A lot of companies depend on us to source drivers on their behalf. Since they are our drivers, we train them frequently and those ones that are badly behaved, we recall them to the classroom. Despite the proliferation of driving schools, most drivers in Nigeria lack the requisite certification and skills. What is responsible for this? Given, we have a huge population, and the drivers are always moving. Keeping them is a problem. But at AA Rescue, we have a data base of our drivers, so we know where every of our drivers are, at every point in time. Thus, you don’t just think they can be careless. Driving schools dot the country though not many are standard. However, the Federal Roads Safety Corps is standardizing the driving schools. It is a step in the right direction. In Nigeria, there is equally the issue of elder brothers teaching his younger ones, friends and so on, driving. This should stop. 70% of people were taught by their parents, friends, brothers, husbands. That should stop. People should go to a proper driving school. In a proper driving school, it’s not just the practical aspect, which is to move the vehicle, that is taught. There is the theoretical phase. That is why we have books which we give to our learners and you have to undergo a test at the end of your training before you are certified to be fit to drive mentally, physically and morally. These are measures we have put in place to build the capacity of drivers and ensure safer roads. A lot of people are not aware of these… Awareness is very necessary. Even if you are a driver, you should come back for a refresher course or do what we call Q DOT capacity or do advance driving. That should reduce accidents on our roads. There are other reasons for accidents, but 90% of the causes of accidents on our roads are man-made. It is said that AA Rescue sticker on your vehicle ensures that your vehicle is not towed by LASTMA officials in Lagos and V.I.O in Abuja in case of a breakdown. Could you shed more light on this? We have been working closely with these regulatory bodies. They are aware that if you experience vehicle breakdown, it would not be long before we get to you. Indeed, they will assist you before we get there. It won’t be long you said. So, what is the duration? About 30 minutes, the limit. So, if you have a breakdown anywhere, you can contact us and we endeavour to get to you in 30 minutes. Are there criteria for having the sticker? The criterion is for you to be our member. It is an annual subscription of N36,000 for standard, which is for individuals. For the corporates, we give discounts. But with an annual subscription and in the event of a breakdown, we will come to your rescue. Besides the Corporate rate, we have the Family rate which goes for N54,000, and the Comprehensive goes for N72,000. The comprehensive is for three vehicles and it comes with a lot of benefits. You enjoy discounts, and free parking in some designated areas. You also enjoy free use of VIP lounge at the airport, and concierge service at the international airport in case you are travelling out of the country. There are several other benefits. What we’ve done is see that you enjoy 500% of what you’ve paid. So, if you pay N36,000, you get discounts from some mega plaza, shops. Some hotels will give you discounts too. If you add all these up, you have saved a lot of money. Vehicles frequently break down on our roads. Many blame the poor state of vehicles imported into the country for this. What is your take on this? We have a lot of new vehicles. 300,000 vehicles come into the country every year. Of these, 250,000 are fairly used and 50,000 brand new vehicles. We have more fairly used cars in Nigeria. That has to do with regulation. Do we want to check the kind of cars coming into the country? The other issue, is how vibrant is our transportation system? Do we have good transportation system that will carter for everybody? Would you be able to move around without necessarily using your vehicle? Would you be comfortable in a taxi? If no, then you have to allow those cars come in. What do you think of the recently introduced vehicle number plates? Do you think it is necessary? We are there to comply. However, it should be well-thought of because it is beginning to be a bit too frequent. By changing number plates almost every year, it means it wasn’t thought through from the onset. Why don’t we think it through so it can last for 10 years? Get a good design. We shouldn’t be changing number plates and policies on driving frequently like the way the rich change cars. What is your view on the state of mass transportation in the country? Can the Government achieve effective mass transit by just importing more buses and tricycles? We need to do more in the area of mass transportation. It shouldn’t be a government thing. It should be a private concern. Transportation should be assisted by the Bank of Industry (BoI) or other government-owned banks where one can get long-term facilities. It should be a private business. That way, it can be effectively run. If it is government-run, there will be complacency, negligence. We have a culture here where we are a bit careless with government things, which we believe is everybody’s thing. If the government can provide the funding for the private concern, it will be more effective. However, we are trying our best. The government is improving, and we are seeing development in every sector. With time, we will catch up, but it is gradual. Things will change; it is going to come gradual or evolutionally. But we need to be very careful. We are a great country with great people, but it must reflect in all that we do. The onus is on us to make the changes to move the country forward.
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