On Thursday last week, the Senate, among its last-minute legislative duties, adopted the “Directorate of Road Traffic Administration Service Bill, 2019.”Senate Leader Dr. Ahmed Lawan presented the bill which, among other issues, gives legal backing to the Federal Capital Territory’s obnoxious park and pay policy. Before a judicial pronouncement forced its suspension in 2014, that policy led to the immoral extortion of motorists by tout-like company agents, which elicited a loud outcry from hapless citizens.
The Bill, at it is couched, is meant to establish a directorate responsible for enforcing parking laws, road traffic management and motor vehicle administration within the Federal Capital Territory. It would also be responsible for producing and administering vehicles’ and drivers’ licences in collaboration with relevant federal agencies. Furthermore, it shall regulate, register, revoke, license and renew motor vehicle documents including issuance of vehicle identification number plates within the FCT.
As if taking over the roles being played by agencies such as Vehicles Inspection Office (VIO) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the directorate shall conduct road worthiness test and issue such certificates to all categories of vehicles for the purposes of ridding the FCT of non-roadworthy vehicles. It would further regulate and enforce the use of bus stops and bus terminals, accredit driving schools whilethe enforcing ban on the use of motorcycles as a means of public transport in the FCT, among others.
This bill, if passed into law, will give legality to the greedy policy that was crushed in a judicial pronouncement by Justice Peter Affen of the High Court in Apo, Abuja, in a suit filed by a private firm, Sun Trust Savings and Loans in 2014. In the ruling, Justice Affen declared the ‘park and pay’ Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy of the FCT administration, whose aggressive enforcement led to the recruitment of thugs as collectors on the streets of Abuja, was without legal backing. The judgement killed ‘park and pay’ and brought great relief to the people of FCT. Now the Senate, which makes laws for the FCT, is giving a breath of life to the greed of the FCT administration through this law.
Though the Senate has padded other regulatory issues along with the ‘park and pay’ law, it is important to state that this law is totally unnecessary. All its components are adequately taken care of by VIO and FRSC, perhaps with the exception of regulation of bus stops and bus terminals. These the FCT has left in the hands of Area Councils in cahoots with touts called the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW. To bring them under control does not need a Draconian law, but effective administrative measures which is within the purview of the FCT administration to take.
Since 2014 when an FCT court declared ‘park and pay’ illegal, there has not been a deliberate attempt to create parking lots in the FCT. As a result, motorists have to park by the roadside, and those who take taxis to avoid the difficulty that the lack of parking space toss them into, are exposed to the antics of ‘one-chance’ taxi drivers. If the FCT administration planned to reintroduce ‘park and pay’, it should have deliberately invested in the infrastructure necessary for parking of vehicles. Without any investment in these, FCTA now wishes to reap where it did not sow. This extortionist and anti-people measure should not see the light of day.
We are not opposed to FCT’s revenue drive but its strategy must not be anti-people in nature; it should not be to the detriment of the people. We call for a review of the law to ensure that ‘park and pay’ is expunged from it. If the Senate feels it is necessary to duplicate the roles being played by other Federal Government agencies, it could go ahead, but it is unfair to impose an additional, unnecessary tax burden on the people of FCT in the name of regulating traffic.