By Favour Nnabugwu & Caleb Ayansina
It is drama unlimited. And it is not about to stop. Everyday in one part of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, or the other, you are bound to see a car owner or driver locked in an altercation or fisticuffs with parking attendants engaged by the FCT authorities.
In less than seven months of the introduction of the FCT’s ‘park and pay’ system, Abuja residents are yet to get accustomed to the regime of having to pay for parking their vehicles.
The inconveniences associated with the system are better imagined than experienced. The administration of the FCT says it needs the ‘park n pay’ system as an avenue for revenue generation; but motorists in the Abuja metropolis disagree with its mode of operations.
Abuja motorists are expected to pay fees ranging from N50 to N100 to park on designated streets from 30 minutes upwards. Defaulters are slammed with N5,000 penalty. Cars are clamped (locked) and the fine is expected to be paid by those who have paid the initial money but over stayed for 20 to 30 minutes.
One of the victims of the parking system, narrating his ordeal to Sunday Vanguard, said he called the telephone lines pasted on his car after his number plate had been removed for contravening the ‘park and pay’ rule more than eight times with no single response, explaining that he had to drive home without the number plates.
Another complained that the parking permit being sold by the companies is exploitative because the areas it covers are not specified in the card, and people assume that it covers all districts in the FCT.
Chairman, Stetson Group of Companies, Mr. Steve Olaye, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, expressed displeasure about the way the FCT authorities are running the ‘park n pay’ regime, noting that it is against norms of decency and respect for the fundamental human rights of the people in the capital city.
His words, “It was on June 12, at about 1 o’ clock in the afternoon. I had an appointment with the head of security at the NNPC, tower and I parked in the facility and a lady told me that if I was going to stay an hour, I should pay N100 and I paid N200 in case I stayed longer; after paying they gave me a ticket to display it on my car and I went in for the meeting. By the time I came out of the meeting the time was about 4pm”.
He continued, “I discovered that my number plates were no longer there and I made enquiries about who took the number plates and the people around said it might be that I had spent more time than I paid for . I looked for the individual so I could pay for the extra time that I stayed but I couldn’t locate her.
“Now the truth is that I had to drive my car to my house in Utako without the plate numbers with series of challenges on the way. The police pulled me over at the Berger Roundabout asking me why I was driving the vehicle without number plates and I complained to them that it was the parking attendant that took my number plates.
“When I got to their office, I saw Nigerians that were subjected to unnecessary and appalling treatments. There was a guy whose number plates they took and he could not go back to Kaduna because they asked for N5,000, which he could not pay because he had only had N2,500 with him. Why should we go through the torture?
“This is extortion. I lived in the US for years, you pay parking ticket; if for any reason you exceed your time you pay for the added time that you used and not the removal of your number plates. Number plates are very sensitive; they are attached to your name. If for any reason they take your number plates and commit a crime, it is you that owns the number plates that will be held responsible”.
Also relaying his experience, Mr. Isaku Bulus, a staff of Magnum Insurance Brokers, said: “I went to the Federal Secretariat, Ministry of Education to be precise, and I parked there; before I left they asked me for my parking permit and I showed them they said that the one I had was not applicable to their own zone. They then requested for the permit of their own zone which I didn’t have; they gave me the one for their zone and I paid and went to the Ministry of Education. By the time I got back, my car had been clamped.
“I approached the lady and I asked her, how many minutes had been used. All she said was ‘see them going’; and I ran after them pleading that they should come and unclamp and they said my time had expired; that I had to go and pay N5,000; I went back to my car and I looked at their notice and started calling the three telephone numbers there, none responded.
“I had to take a drop to this place and paid N300 for the drop, after coming here, they said they could not do anything, that I had to go to the bank and pay N5000 and come back to this place; the people who are enforcing this are over doing it”.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Platimum Parking Management Services (PPMS), Otunba Olusegun Olarewaju, in defence of the ‘park and pay’ regime, stated that street parking management was in the Act that created Abuja as a Federal Capital City (FCC).
Olarenwaju stated that street parking management, recently introduced by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), was to stop illegal parking in the city.
He said, “The purpose is to sanitise parking management and parking arrangement on our roads. If parking is not managed properly, man-hours will be lost through illegal parking and there will be mayhem on the roads. The pilot phase of the on street parking management, practiced in advanced cities of the world, had yielded tremendous results and would be replicated in Abuja.
“What we’re trying to do is to sanitise illegal parking everywhere in the city. Look at Tigris, Aguiyi Ironsi, in Maitama, which had been a no-go-area in the past, you can drive through the road now within seconds. Before it used to be double parking, triple parking everywhere on the road, nobody cared, but now the area is sanitized”.
The FCT administration has the support of the Senate on the ‘park n pay’ regime as the parliament charged the minister in charge of the FCT to implement the regime, saying every free space for parking must be maximally utilized to generate revenue for the FCT.
The Senate President, Mr. David Mark, who gave the hint, spoke in Abuja at an interactive session between the FCT Minister and residents of the territory.
The event was organized to commemorate 20 years of relocation of the seat of power from Lagos to Abuja. “For Abuja to be a model city, you must take painful decisions. I am saying this, so that those in charge of Abuja could embark on initiative, geared toward boosting internally generated revenue so that they can provide the facilities that you want them to provide in the city.
“The minister of Abuja should make sure that there are facilities to take care of the pressure and those trooping to Abuja because, if care is not taken, sooner than later, Abuja will be like Lagos. People have to pay for the parking space in Abuja”, he said.
Giving some insight into the idea behind the scheme, the Secretary, FCT Transportation Secretariat, Engr. Jonathan Ivoke, said the major focus was traffic management.
According to him, “The scheme aims at bringing sanity to Abuja roads by checking traffic congestion in the city where people park haphazardly on the shoulders of the road and walkways meant for pedestrians.
“Our target is traffic management, not how much the FCTA is going to make or is making from the scheme. However, I must tell you that the FCT minister mentioned at several occasions that the administration will subsidize mass transportation in the city. How are we going to get the money to subsidize mass transportation? The answer is simple – through government earnings from projects like the Park and Pay Scheme”.
The Secretary also listed employment creation as one of the numerous benefits of the project as he said that the scheme has already provided employment for more than 500 youths, who, he said, are presently working with the two companies managing the scheme on the streets of Abuja.
According to him, “Motorists who park on the parking area without a valid ticket, would attract a fine of N5,000. A similar fine would also be meted out for wrong parking on shoulders of the road, flowerbeds and walkways”.
In the same vein, defaulters who have their vehicles impounded and towed to the auto pond, would have to pay a fine of N10,000 before such vehicles are released to owners, aside the payment of N1,000 demurrage to be charged for each night.
Though the public is not in the know of the exact percentage of money which accrues to the FCT Administration from this project, the Platinum Parking Management Services boss disclosed that the bulk of the money generated from the ‘park n pay’ goes to the administration.