By Stanley Onyekwere
There are feelings of gloom and excitement among residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), over the FCT Administration’s insistence on repackaging the suspended Abuja Park and Pay’ policy for re-launching before the end of the year.
While many residents expressed fears that the move would mean the return of abuses like arbitrary charges, intimidation and harassment against them, others were happy and optimistic that the revised policy when in place would enhance the security and beauty of the city.
Peoples Daily recalls that a judge of the FCT High court sitting in Apo, the nation’s capital, Justice Peter Affen, had on April 14 declared the park and pay policy illegal, which should be stopped forthwith.
In his ruling, Affen, said there was no enabling law backing the policy, after a private savings and loans firm in the in the Abuja sued the FCTA.
Following the court’s declaration, there was a wide jubilation among residents over the suspension of the scheme, as many saw it as deep relief from the operators’ purported arbitrary charges and high handedness against innocent people in the city.
But according to the FCT administration, it plans to fulfill the legal requirements needed to reintroduce the suspended policy in a better form.
In clarifying the rationale behind its decision to return the policy, in a recent interview with Peoples Daily, the Special Assistant on media to the FCT minister, Nosike Ogbuenyi, acknowledge that there were pitfalls associated with the initial implementation of the policy, but not with the concept itself.
According to him: “All these are some of the things that the minister has considered and he is going to come out with very clear cut guidelines for the policy, so it is coming.
“There have been a lot of collaborations, meetings and committees sitting to fine tune the programme, So it is coming back and very soon- that’s the assurance that I can give to the residents. This is because there is no mega city in the world that does not have a park and pay system.
“People don’t just park any how in the city. You can see what is happening now in Abuja- there is chaos in many places, with people parking their vehicles anyhow and do anyhow.”
Reacting to the planned move, one Elijah Ejeh, of Asokoro District, who expressed sadness of it, said there was no justification for the reintroduction of the scheme, going by its bitter experiences due to the over zealousness of the operators.
He argued that the operators were only concerned with how much they can realize from the public, by employing all forms of force to cow innocent people into parting with their hard earned resources.
Similarly, one Ogene Austin, who resides at Wuse, said the FCTA should put the plan on hold, and first build the capacities of stakeholders in the scheme, as the operators lacked the required skills and knowledge to effectively implement the policy.
“For me there is no need for the government to even contemplate repackaging the policy, as there is nothing to show that some of the problems associated with the initial implementation of the scheme are being addressed, to ensure its workability,” he said.
Another resident, Umar Ali, of Jabi, in Utako District, who specifically complained about the attitude of the officials of the Private operators, whereby they are not visible to attend to customers, as they would rather lay ambush on unsuspecting motorists, so as to clamp down on their vehicles, because of the arbitrary charges they collect as penalties.
” The problem we have in this part of the world is that our leaders are very quick to copy whatever other developed cities are doing, without first considering the workability of such initiative due to our peculiarity, but as long as it would generate revenue for them, it is good-even if the people die or become sick because of it.
“So if the government goes on to reintroduce the policy, I’m sure that they would not last, as there is the possibility of more victims arising from the high handedness of the operators of the scheme.
But, expressing contrary view on the issue, one Franca Oke, described the move as a welcome one, considering the lingering insecurity in the country, particularly the nation’s capital required such drastic measure.
She decried that since the suspension of the system, there is increased rate of indiscriminate parking by motorists everywhere in the FCT, thereby making the city look disorganised and dirty.
“With the return of the revised scheme, I’m confident that it would help boost the security of the city, as people especially criminal minded ones would no longer abandon their vehicles on the streets, which may be useful tools in the hands of terrorists,” she said.
On his part, one Adebayo Ola, said people should not allow the little pitfalls recorded during the initial implementation of the scheme, overshadow the good things inherent in the policy.
He says; “the scheme has the capacity to provide employment to a lot of unemployed army of youths in the society, irrespective meager wages they may be receiving, at least they would become gainfully engaged and be able to fend for themselves.”
Meanwhile, outlining the benefits of the system, the minister’s spokesman said beyond providing employment and generating revenue, it enhances aesthetics and minimizes car theft in FCT.
“There is nowhere where you just behave anyhow on the road. This is about life. Because by their operation they also help to minimize accidents on the road, as a situation whereby people are parking and positioning their vehicles anyhow, it increases the accident rate.
“And since they stopped operating, accident rate in some places are now on the up surge, and we don’t want it to continue.
“So, residents should cooperate with the operators, because the idea is for the good of all of us, as we would be working in tandem with what is happening in other parts of the world,” he stressed.