FCT Min­is­ter and Abuja park­ing firm (I)

Daily Trust - - VIEWS - Idang Al­ibi idan­gal­ibi@dai­lytrust.com

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.

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