By Stanley Onyekwere
Recently, Mandate Secretary, Transport Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA),Engineer Jonathan Ivoke, reiterated that the administration is re-packaging the controversial On-street-parkingsystem popularly known as the Park and Pay for a re-launch.
Ivoke said since the suspension of the policy by a judge of the FCT High court sitting in Apo, the nation’s capital, Justice Peter Affen, citing the legality of its operation.
Peoples Daily recall that Justice Peter Affen, had on April 14, 2014 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.
As expected, there was a wide jubilation among residents over the suspension of the scheme, as many say it relieved them from the operators’ purported arbitrary charges and high handedness against innocent motorists in the city.
Interestingly, since then, many motorists have gone berserk, parking indiscriminately without due recourse to other road users, as their actions poses serious risks to commuting even as it violates the traffic rules.
It was in the quest to restore sanity to motorists in the capital city that the administration is working with the national assembly to restore the park and pay policy he said to reporters in Abuja at a press briefing on the achievements of the secretariat in the last year.
The On-street-Parking popularly known as Park and Pay policy required that vehicles parked within the city between the period of 7am and 7pm during workdays are to pay for the space and time the vehicle was parked except Saturdays and Sundays.
However, the policy which was introduced in 2011 by the FCT Administration was aimed at sanitising the unruly parking habit of drivers on the streets thereby creating traffic congestion.
And when the policy came on stream, residents of the territory welcomed the idea as they noted that the unnecessary traffic congestion would be managed for good.
Unfortunately, between 2011 when the FCTA launched the scheme at Wuse 11, pioneered by Integrated Parking System (IPS) and April 2014 when the court quashed the policy for lack of legal instrument to drive it, the operators, IPS, ATB and the late entrant NAJAC, but it appeared that administration seemed tohave derailed in her mission, as it’s staffers acting on instruction abused the implementation of the policy.
Even as it was the duty of the on-street-parking attendants to man their posts and ensure that drivers parked are duly charged, they would rather stay away from visible point where they can be contacted and payment made for an amicable service upon the exit of the drivers they call their supervisors who come to clamp the vehicle for the bigger cash of N5000 and above than for the N50 or hundred Naira tag for 30 min and one hour.
Drivers and car owners groaned under the policy creating bad blood between them and the operators and by extension the administration of the FCT which empowered the operators.
But according to the FCT administration, it plans to fulfill the legal requirements needed to reintroduce the suspended policy in a better form.
Following the FCT Administration’s insistence on repackaging the suspended policy for a comeback before the end of last year, had continued to elicit feelings of gloom and excitement among residents.
While many residents have 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.
Reiterating 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.”
For Ivoke, the enabling law which gave oxygen to the fire of the legal workings of Justice Affen judgement to end the policy is being prepared and would be granted expeditious attention to enable the administration arrest the indiscipline on the roads.
Although, the secretary admitted that the operators went overboard in the course of implementing the policy but would have learnt their lessons even as he said the laws being worked on would address these lacuna and ensured rigorous training for their staffers.
On his part, MD/CEO of NAJEC Nigeria Limited, Nebolisa Igbokwe, noted that the new phase of the policy will be technology driven such that service off-takers would be issued unified cards that would be accepted by all the operators irrespective of point of purchase and charged as appropriate.
According to him, an electronic card is underway that would make for seamless cashless payment, this will discourage to a large extent such issues raised about bad behaviours of some of the recalcitrant staffers.
Beside the cards, the attendants will be fitted with functional camera as with our staffers whom when people come to complain to me were verified and they saw their recordings to their consternation as they view themselves of such cases of alleged fraudulent practices where they were guilty.
Some observers opined that those kicking against the policy have their reasons but the sanity that would be experienced on the streets of the city would obviously be a thing of pride to all residents of the city who are very conversant with the recent past while the policy was in place.
Reacting to the planned move, one Elijah Ejeh, of Asokoro District, who expressed sadness over 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.
Also, 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.”
Notwithstanding, 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.