FCT Minister and Abuja parking firm (I)
Is the FCT minister, Bala Abdulkadir Moham-med, really in office and in power or is he merely in office but not in power to address the welfare issues of the residents of the Federal Capital Territory? If the man is really in power, are his ears not yet full with the agonizing cries of millions of residents of the FCT who own cars who daily tell tales of woes about the wickedness or evil disposition of the officials of an organisation called Integrated Parking Services Ltd (IPS)? This organisation which says it is a consultant to the FCTA on orderly parking in the city is actually an agent of the FCT Administration to collect fines or extort money from residents who are deemed to have violated the parking rules.
I have carefully chosen my words in describing the relationship between the FCTA and IPS. The latter is not an agent of the FCTA to ensure orderly parking. Rather, it has since redefined its mandate as one meant to oppress and fleece evil money from hapless citizens using the flimsiest of excuses. If, for instance, you park in any designated parking lot and if the mud guard of your car as much as encroaches by a centimetre on the next lot, you are ‘convicted’ by IPS thugs of wrongful parking and slammed with a fine of N15, 000!
The workers of IPS go about their job with a heart full of wickedness and heartlessness and it is a great wonder indeed that Malam Bala has not yet decided that their iniquity is full and is even running over, deserving that judgment (such as the termination of their consultancy) should be pronounced against that organisation and its workers of iniquity. Ever a very careful and law abiding man, I have never had any personal negative encounter with the notorious IPS people before but I have heard and seen enough of the trauma those people visit on innocent residents of the FCT. The most recent incident involving the IPS people and a helpless citizen which I witnessed for myself and which lasted about four hours has convinced me of the need to lend my small voice to the cries that Minister Bala should do something about those people to stop them from continuing to add to the woes of already traumatised Nigerians in the hands of their leaders and their agents.
At about 11.04 am on Friday March 28, I ran into a professional colleague of mine on Durban Street, Wuse, Abuja a few metres away from the office of Sigma Pensions Ltd. He said he had gone to see someone at Sigma for a few minutes and on coming back he met two tyres of his car clamped and he was asked to pay a fine of N15, 000 for wrong parking. His offence was not that he had failed to pay for a ticket or that he was even wrongly parked as such. Rather, his mistake, which any honest law enforcement officer whose heart is in the spirit and not the letter of the law would ignore, is that in his bid to be way off the ever busy semi-commercial, semi-residential street, a fraction of his front type inadvertently rested on the pavement.
He pleaded with the IPS officials to consider his intention and look at his parking (his so-called offence) which constituted no danger whatsoever or any inconvenience of any sort to vehicular traffic or to pedestrians. He said his parking was meant to safeguard his car and facilitate free movement of both vehicle and pedestrian, the very spirit of the parking regulation and anyone who saw the way he was parked agreed with him. A small crowd soon formed as many passers-by who saw the unfair clamping would stop to plead for understanding arguing that since the man’s car did not in any way block the main room or the pedestrian walk way, his minor ‘offence’ should be ignored. The IPS enforcers refuse to listen to any plea. They insisted he must go and pay the N15, 000.
It did not take long before some smart Nigerians in the crowd realized that the IPS men were not really interested in any enforcement of the parking rules regulation but were merely using the law for their own private gains so efforts should be made to ‘’see’’ them and ‘’negotiate’’. A fellow, ‘’ Yellow’’, who says he knows the ‘’ways’’ of those people, offered to be the go-between in the negotiation. Before Yellow could go to the tormentors, my thoroughly shocked and distressed friend told him that he had only N2, 000 on him and was in no mood of offering anything beyond that. Yellow went and negotiated with their oga a hefty looking black guy who refused to take the N2000. He told Yellow he had seen my friend bring out the N2, 000 from a bundle in his bag so he should give them at least N5, 000 or go and pay the N15, 000 as fine.
I decided that in solidarity with my friend and also in order to have a journalistic story to tell, I will stick to the scene to the end of this drama and see live for myself the ways of the IPS I had heard so much about. My friend said he would not add a kobo more to the N2, 000 he was ready to offer as ‘’settlement’’ and the IPS boys said the money was ‘too small’, compared to the hefty amount he might have to pay officially. Please note that they had created the offence, fixed the amount he would pay as fine and now left him the choice of choosing between the rock and a hard place.
If this is not oppression of the worst kind, let somebody tell me what it is. Meanwhile there was stalemate. A game of wit ensured. The IPS boys took to parading the street and neighbouring ones in a hired taxi in order to trap more unwary victims, and every now and then would stop at the scene to find out if my friend had become ‘wiser’ from the psychological trauma being waged against him and if he was now ready to play ball.