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