The Federal Capital Territory Minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed, in contending with the daily chaos that arise from traffic jams on the streets of Abuja, introduced the park and pay regime,which came into effect recently. JAMES UWEM looks at the operation of the regime and the various shortcomings that have bedeviled its success.
Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory is adjudged the fastest growing mega city in contemporary Africa. Although the progenitors of the city had an architectural mindset of a glamorous and aesthetic city, the reality on ground today, however, portrays the implementation of the master plan as being regretably without thought for the astronomic increase in the population of the capital city and a reciprocal hike in the level of infrastructural facilities characteristic of a mega city, which Abuja has come to represent.
The city in the past 35 years, has evolved to become the centre of opportunities for Nigerians and foreigners alike, resulting in the huge influx of people to the city. The now bloated population came with tremendous challenges, one of which is the perplexing traffic congestion; the city is fast gravitating towards a traffic crises reminiscent of Lagos.
The Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed however, thought it wise to introduce the “park and pay regime” aimed at instilling sanity into traffic operations in the capital city.
Under the park and pay regime, motorists are expected to pay certain amount ranging from N50 to N100 to park on some designated streets from 30 minutes upwards, so as not to disturb traffic on such routes.
The understanding of the introduction of the park and pay regime is that in addition to demystifying and ending the traffic congestions on the streets of Abuja, it is also to create additional employment and some level of security for vehicles plying Abuja routes.
Interestingly, motorists applauded the initiative but not long after its commencement, the high hopes of the road users became dashed as motorists now see the exercise as exploitative, no thanks to the antics of some officials of the operating firms.
Some motorists who narrated their woes in the hands of the operators to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY exclaimed what they termed as “undue exploitations and extortion” by the operators. Motorists are questioning the rational behind the existence of only two companies (Integrated Parking System and Platinum Parking Management System) as the successful contractors for the entire FCT, out of the several hundreds that applied.
Investigations by LEADERSHIP SUNDAY reveal that the use of just two sole contractors shows the hand of high profile government officials. This to a large extent has given the contractors the latitude to operate with impunity.
On the allegations of extortion levelled against the park and pay operators, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY met with the authorities of the Dederal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).
The Director of the Department of Public Transport in the FCDA , Egnr. Yahaya Garba in an interview acknowledged grave impunity on the part of the operators and stated that so far the FCDA has been inundated with a large number of complaints and that these have resulted in not fewer than 50 court cases.
In the operational guidelines given to the operators, the Dirctor said part of it stipulates that the contractors have to employ enough street operators to facilitate its smooth operation.
On charges, Engr. Garba said they are expected to be relative to the time spent by car owners , starting from N30 for 30 minutes and N100 for an hour, while the slot cards cost N1000 for six months.
Reminded that on the frivolous N5000 being forcefully charged by operators as penalties he said, the N5000 penalties were to be charged on motorists who refused to pay at the initial time, such cars he said are the ones to be clamped (locked) and N5000 as fine on those who have paid the initial money but over stayed for as long as 20 to 30 minutes .
The transport director explained that the contractors were expected to introduce a machine payment system to curb the human errors and corrupt tendencies, adding that machines could have operated strictly on pay as long as your vehicle stays other than the obnoxious fines of N5000 being foisted on innocent motorists.
He refuted the accusations that the park and pay regime essentially targeted making money for FCDA through unwarranted and illegal fines from motorists. Rather, he insists the cardinal aim is to inject orderliness in the city.
Contrary to all these, Operators tend not to have followed any of these guidelines. In their few months of operation, the Abuja motorists are already counting their woes, suffering and unruly treatments meted on them by the operators and their agents.
The opinion of Abuja motorists reflect that the best would have been the use of machine payment as they view giving the operators authority to charge N5000 at the slightest expiration of time by FCDA is like giving them an open cheque to fraudulently rob the people as it is obvious that people will always not finish their engagements at the exert anticipated time.
Though the FCDA authorities also debunked targeting milking the public, some of the pertinent questions often asked are; why are the operators not operating similar card system as used in the telecoms sector or at most the type of system the cyber café operates where one pays for a time and the extra time can as well be used subsequent days at least within a time frame?
Other complaints include the dirt of street operators, in most streets and their out right absence in some others.