] ] Idang Al­ibi FCT Min­is­ter and Abuja park­ing firm (II)

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

The game of wit be­tween of­fi­cials of the In­te­grated Park­ing Ser­vices (IPS) and my friend over al­leged wrong­ful park­ing con­tin­ued. One hour passed. Two hours passed. And three hours came and also passed. None of the par­ties was ready to blink. We were now head­ing for the fourth hour. Ob­vi­ously frus­trated and an­gered by my friend’s de­ter­mi­na­tion not to sub­mit eas­ily to this ex­tor­tion­ist game be­ing played at him, the IPS people went and brought their tow­ing truck to tow my friend’s car to their (grave) yard. That would mean my friend would be re­quired to pay an additional sum of N10, 000 for the ‘’ser­vice’’ of force­fully tak­ing the car to their yard. We were also told by those who are fa­mil­iar with the evil ways of the IPS people that if he al­lowed his car to be towed to the yard, he will be re­quired to pay an­other N5, 000 ‘un­clamp­ing fine’ be­fore he can have ac­cess to it. What sort of calamity dressed in le­gal­ity is this to be­fall a man in one day in the hands of a people who are sup­posed to be law en­forcers?

At this point my friend de­cided that he will de­prive the boys of the money he was ready to give them as the un­der the ta­ble set­tle­ment and would rather go and pay the of­fi­cial fine even as he was con­vinced that he had not com­mit­ted any real of­fence war­rant­ing the pay­ment of such a huge fine. When he re­turned from the bank thirty min­utes later with the teller, he called the people to come and un­clamp his car but they were not in a hurry to come to the scene. It took him sev­eral calls and about 40 min­utes later be­fore the people reluc­tantly showed up. They were ob­vi­ously un­happy that my ‘’self-right­eous’’ friend had de­prived them of ‘food’. And thus a drama that be­gan at 11.04am ended at 3.20pm. A law abid­ing cit­i­zen was un­fairly and un­justly fleeced of N15, 000 by a people work­ing for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that says it is aligned to govern­ment to carry out a pub­lic good. As is al­ways the case with our gov­er­nance, an in­stru­ment for pub­lic good has be­come a po­tent tool for the op­pres­sion of the cit­i­zenry.

While wait­ing dur­ing those four hours to see this un­for­tu­nate drama play out, I could not help re­flect­ing on the fact that the agents of IPS go about their job with a pas­sion that is rarely seen among Nige­rian work­ers. When they clamp your car for a park­ing vi­o­la­tion they dis­play un­com­mon cru­elty and sadis­tic glee that leaves you in no doubt that what is driv­ing them is not re­ally any zeal to keep the FCT or­derly. But their real mo­tive is to earn tonnes of money quickly ei­ther for the com­pany or for them­selves. While I waited among the crowd, I no­ticed that ev­ery passer-by who stopped to see what the IPS agents did to my friend had no good words for the In­te­grated Park­ing Ser­vices Ltd. Ev­ery­one seems to have one tale of op­pres­sion or an­other to tell in the hands of those people. The word ev­ery­one kept us­ing in talk­ing about the IPS people is wicked­ness, evil, heart­less­ness, greed; no pos­i­tive word was ever used.

The anger of most cit­i­zens is not against In­te­grated Park­ing Ser­vices Ltd but against a govern­ment that will al­low such a wicked or­gan­i­sa­tion to ex­ist and to tor­ment cit­i­zens. Ev­ery­one agrees that the FCTA is very much in or­der in try­ing to do some­thing to en­sure or­derly park­ing so that Abuja does not be­come a nightmare to cit­i­zens as La­gos used to be in the days it served as the Federal Cap­i­tal City. But the good idea of a part­ner­ship with IPS should not be al­lowed to be hi­jacked. Un­less Min­is­ter Bala has an un­holy deal with In­te­grated Park­ing Ser­vices Ltd, he should or­der them to change their at­ti­tude of us­ing ev­ery ex­cuse to fleece cit­i­zens. And if they fail to heed such coun­sel, the con­sul­tancy/con­tract should be ter­mi­nated and an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is ready to be more hon­est and hu­mane be asked to take their place.

Nigeria is ripe for a revo­lu­tion and the trig­ger may be some mi­nor, al­most in­nocu­ous in­ci­dents such as the un­just clamp­ing of a frus­trated cit­i­zen’s car. The FCT min­is­ter and our other lead­ers should al­ways re­mem­ber what trig­gered the Arab Spring. It was an op­pressed, frus­trated, tired, an­gry and pos­si­bly hun­gry or­ange seller, Bouaz­izi, who set him­self ablaze in 2011 and metaphor­i­cally, set the Arab re­gion on a fire that is yet to quench three years later. When a lower mid­dle class man is un­justly op­pressed on a Fri­day; he is made to waste four hours of his time and made to part with N15, 000 he earned through hon­est labour, he can be­come a greater Bouaz­izi. He may not set him­self on fire. He may in­stead choose to be­come a free­dom fighter with Uzi short guns and AK 47 rif­fles. Those in govern­ment should not give any­body room to use just laws, poli­cies or reg­u­la­tions un­justly against cit­i­zens. We should not al­low hon­est cit­i­zens’ frus­tra­tion and anger to rise to a tip­ping point to push them to do some­thing stupid.

Let the Na­tional As­sem­bly step in and in­ves­ti­gate IPS and seek to find out why its of­fi­cials are so op­pres­sive. Who are the own­ers of In­te­grated Park­ing Ser­vices Limited and who is the pil­lar be­hind them that gives them the bold­ness to act with such I-don’t-care at­ti­tude? What are the terms of agree­ment with the FCTA con­cern­ing the re­mit­tances of money earned in the work? The over zeal­ous­ness of the IPS men in en­forc­ing the park­ing rules is be­yond nor­mal and there­fore very sus­pi­cious. We know very well that if that huge blood money they ex­tort from Nige­ri­ans was go­ing to govern­ment cof­fers no one in that or­gan­i­sa­tion will bother as much as is the case now.

Our real con­cern here is that the law is ob­vi­ously be­ing op­er­ated in a most op­pres­sive man­ner and Bala Mo­hammed must treat the case of IPS with the at­ten­tion their men­ace de­serves. On these pages, I have of­ten lamented the ca­pac­ity of the Black man, es­pe­cially Nige­ri­ans to de­base any no­ble idea. The idea of en­sur­ing or­der­li­ness in park­ing in Abuja is quite a no­ble one. But this good idea has been hi­jacked by some people to serve their own ends by all means fair and foul.

IPS rep­re­sents, most poignantly, the cap­ture of govern­ment by a pri­vate commercial in­ter­est with some pre­tence for pub­lic good and us­ing the name of govern­ment to op­press cit­i­zens in a most cyn­i­cal man­ner. The of­fi­cials of IPS them­selves are fully aware that they are not re­ally in­ter­ested in proper traf­fic man­age­ment in Abuja; their real in­ter­est lies else­where, namely, in mak­ing money. From what I can see, it looks like they have a high daily tar­get they must meet and who­ever fails to do so will suf­fer some eco­nomic con­se­quences, hence their des­per­a­tion to make as much money as pos­si­ble us­ing any pre­text no mat­ter how ridicu­lous such ex­cuses might be to any fair and rea­son­able per­son.

Min­is­ter Bala should lis­ten to the cries of car own­ers in Abuja by call­ing the IPS to or­der im­me­di­ately.

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