Mallam Iliyasu Abdu is the managing director, Integrated Parking Services (IPS), one of the companies working in partnership with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to ensure orderly parking of vehicles in Abuja streets and increase the revenue base of the administration. In this interview with DAVID ADUGE-ANI, he reveals that the major challenge facing the organisation in its one year of operation is the incessant attack on its staff by security agencies; adding that the park and pay policy has actually increased the revenue profile of the administration.
It has been one year since the park and pay policy of the FCTA commenced. As a partner in this project, what has been your experience?
Actually, we were licensed in 2010 to provide these services, but we commenced operation in January 27, this year. As usual, new products are always very difficult to sell. However, with the help of the FCTA and the good people of Abuja, we are making headway and parking has come to stay in the city.
This is because anywhere you go in Abuja you see our staff in the streets carrying out their duties, which has brought sanity. In terms of revenue generation in the FCT, I think it is a plus, because if you can go through the records in July, the administration has never gotten it so good as this time. They were able to generate up to N1.5 billion as internally generated revenue. It has never been done in the FCT since the creation of Abuja.
So it is a plus for this administration for their foresight and vision to make this city a self-sustaining city that can compete favourably with any other city all over the world.
Do you enjoy relative support from the senior security personnel and other highly placed officers in the territory?
Actually, we can say yes because the way senior security personnel, especially the military relate with us is very commendable. Since we started, vehicles belonging to army generals have been clamped and they have come to pay.
Only yesterday, a vehicle belonging to an air force general’s wife was clamped and towed, but the gentleman came here silently with his uniform, paid this money and left. In fact, I am very impressed with the cooperation we receive from the hierarchy of the military.
We understand that a lot of people have dragged your organisation to court since you started operation. How have you disposed of such cases?
It is true that we have a lot of court cases pending in various courts in the FCT. As at last count, we have ten cases pending, while one case has been disposed. We are still battling with the remaining cases in different courts.
On the only resolved case, what were the charges preferred against you, and how was it resolved?
It was resolved in our favour. The issue was that some aggrieved motorists went to court to know if the FCT minister actually has the constitutional power to introduce and enforce parking regulations in FCT streets on private vehicle owners.
But the court, in its wisdom, decided that the minister has the right to manage its municipality; and in the course of managing its municipality, any policy introduced is not unconstitutional.
Motorists in Abuja streets have complained that your staff are not always present to collect the fees when vehicles are parked, but they only appear later to clamp their vehicles. What is your reaction to this?
Yes, you know that each parking attendant handles about 15 bases. What this means is that 15 cars are under his care at any given time. We always appeal to motorists to exercise that little patience. Maybe the time when a particular motorist is parking, the attendant might be attending to another person.
That is why we have introduced a device called parking card. It is a new concept invented by us to make sure that those motorists who don’t have the time for parking attendants can buy the card and slot in their vehicles. You can slot this card inside your car by the side of your window so that when our attendants come around they will use their machine to debit you. Our machine can read the card inside your vehicle 10 centimetres away.
So with that the issue of clamping your vehicle when you are not there will not be there anymore. The issue of towing your vehicle will also not arise as far that card has some credits in it.
How accurate is this parking card? Are you sure it cannot be manipulated?
This machine is developed specifically for this Abuja project and the Nigerian environment. It uses radio technology. It has a frequency that only us can access. So the security of the card is assured.
What is the welfare of your staff like?
Well, in terms of salary, the minimum we pay here is N30, 000 for our attendants while the supervisors are paid the sum of N35, 000 monthly. You know that in Nigeria, the minimum wage is N18, 000. It is my belief that we are not doing badly in terms of welfare for our staff.
What are your major challenges?
The major challenge we have faced in the past few months is the issue of manhandling of our staff by security personnel and irate motorists. Some of them ask what the money we collect is meant for. And we always try to educate them on the essence of the project.
The security personnel are the major problem because many of them believe that they are exempted from the project. But we always educate them that the law setting up the project never exempted security personnel from paying for parking.
The vehicles exempted from payment are clearly stated. These are ambulances, police vehicles on patrol, school buses and fire service engines.
How do you handle cases of security personnel or irate motorists who attack your staff on duties?
We often report them to their superior officers who will speak to them in the “language they understand.’’ And they usually compel them to pay for damages.
We noticed that you have reduced your charging rate. What was responsible for this?
When we started we were charging about N15, 000 for some offences, although other charges were there. But the administration, in its wisdom, advised that we should bring the rates down, so we have to comply.
Also, before now we usually removed plate numbers from defaulting vehicles, but the administration said we should stop doing that, and we obliged. What we do now is to tow any vehicle that goes against the parking regulations.