The planned ‘resurrection’ of the Park and Pay policy in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), has elicited mixed reactions from different quarters. CALEB ONWE reports
I t was first introduced in 2014 when parking lots along the streets were leased to different private companies.
These strategic places within the city centre were marked out and manned by employees of these private companies, who charged vehicle owners various sums per duration of parking. However, the operation of the scheme ran into murky waters as some aggrieved individual went to court, challenging its legality.
The plaintiffs in the suit argued that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) was implementing a policy not known to any valid legislation. The court faulted the policy implementation based on the fact that it was not specifically provided for in the 2005 FCT Road Transport Regulation. After the landmark ruling of the court that the policy was not backed by any extant legislation, the FCTA suspended it.
However, after nine years if suspension, the FCTA has announced its intention to reintroduce the controversial policy. Director, Traffic Management, FCTA Transportation Secretariat , Wadata Bodinga has said that there would be no going back on the plans. He disclosed that the scheme would be back within the first quarter of 2023.
Inside Abuja learnt that in 2019, the Road Transport Regulation of the FCT was amended and also gazetted to pave way for the scheme.
According to Bodinga, all legal issues that scuttled the policy and stalled its implementation for almost eight years, have been resolved.
He disclosed that at the preliminary stage, the scheme will operate free for some months, after which the private concessionaires will take over and charge “friendly” fees. Bodinga noted that following the rapid population growth in Abuja, and its consequential traffic congestion, resuscitating the policy had become necessary.
He explained that the nation’s capital was faced with many traffic irregularities, posing grave dangers to residents, noting that the reintroduction of the scheme will mitigate these challenges to the barest minimum.
Some residents of the city, especially the well travelled individuals, have described it as a welcome development, but others called it a draconian measure to inflict further unnecessary pains and economic hardship on the people. Inside Abuja’s findings showed that in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other developed countries, there are strict regulations on how vehicles are parked on streets.
It was also discovered that owners of vehicles who don’t like using the public transportation scheme in those countries and prefer to drive their cars, are also prepared to pay some fees for parking in public places.
Those who appear to fancy the idea of park and pay , argue that if the parking bills are not exorbitant and the operators are transparent, many people would tolerate it. There are also some who believe that FCT administration was yielding to the enchantment of some smart private investors who want to enlarge their business coasts with their well knitted web of civil service connections and networks.
Inside Abuja even gathered that some top ranking civil servants who had allegedly registered some proxy logistics companies were behind the vigorous push for the return of the scheme.
A resident, Engr. Suleiman Kabir pointed out that the implementation would help reduce the number of vehicular traffic into the city centre. Kabir noted that the policy if well implemented can also be a lasting solution to wrong parking being witnessed on a daily basis in Abuja. He stated that it was a common sight, seeing car owners taking over all pedestrian walkways, without giving a damn. Those who are opposed to the scheme and may likely be heading to the court to challenge its reintroduction, are essentially citizens who believe that Abuja is not ripe for such a scheme.
They argue that FCT was still far from having a good public transportation system and cannot restrict the use of private vehicles through the policy. According to them, many people who still endure terrific traffic gridlock to drive their cars to work, do so, because there isn’t a reliable alternative.
Even members of staff of the FCTA are not happy about the plans to reintroduce the scheme.
The workers wondered why almost all the staff buses will be grounded and abandoned, and yet they are expected not to drive their cars to work. Inside Abuja checks confirmed that about 13 high capacity green buses procured to ease workers transportation to and from the workplace, have been parked for a long time.
This situation was said to have forced many workers to come to work, driving their personal cars. Some of the workers also complained that their work places lack adequate parking spaces, forcing them to park on the streets.
Another factor which residents said has rubbished the policy, was the administration’s inability to sustain the operation of the urban mass transit buses.
The Mass Transit Buses was part of the schemes introduced by the administration many years ago to boost public transportation system. However, there is virtually nothing to write home about the FCT Transport Policy as the mass transit scheme has been completely grounded for some years. No fewer then a hundred mass transit buses have broken down and left to rot away at the bus terminal located along the Kubwa/ Zuba Expressway.
Critics of the Park and Pay policy accused government of abandoning its responsibility of providing citizens with good transportation alternatives.
They said it was unfair to force people to drive their cars to the city centre, because there is no other means, and then subject them the hardship of paying for parking their cars on the streets.
Inadequate parking lots
Other factor giving credence to the attacks on the park and pay policy, is the fact that most office and public buildings lack adequate parking spaces.
Residents said that government was also not mindful of the astronomical population growth in Abuja. They noted that driving to many office in the city centre can be very risky , as visitors are even forced to park their cars on the streets at their own risk.
Some residents have also criticised the integrity of the park and pay policy, due to the fact that after paying to park your car at the available spaces, you are told that you’ve parked at your own risk. Inside Abuja learnt that the caveat that “cars are parked at the owners risk,” being inserted on the ticket issued at the point of payment, also worries residents.