The authorities are creating a climate for agitation. They should do what is right

At a time that public administrators are increasingly concerned with placing the citizen at the centre of considerations in other jurisdictions, it is unfortunate that the authorities in Abuja are largely interested in how to extort money from residents. On the pretext of a revenue drive and enforcing bogus laws, the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage (DOAS) have become a spanner in the wheel of dispatch riders, taxi drivers, and other innocent motorists.  

 With street urchins as collaborators, vehicles are stopped on the road for all manner of searches and they can be clamped before the owner is forced to reclaim with fees ranging between N6,000 and N25,000. The touts also have a list of offences with penalties that they only understand and would enforce sometimes with physical blows. “There is the issue of their staff on the road. We don’t know which one is AMAC or DOAS. We don’t even know the real staff. Once they wear their reflective jacket, they will say they are AMAC; no ID card, no nothing,” said Yunusa Ismaila of Dees Rides, a logistics company based in Abuja. “The ID cards they show have no name or photograph. The only thing written on it is AMAC.” 

We are not opposed to collection of legitimate revenues by any government department. But what happens on Abuja roads is sheer recklessness. Against the background that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is reportedly planning to reintroduce a policy of park and pay on the roads within the metropolis, we need to remind them of what happened in 2013 before the policy was suspended. At that time, a policy advertised to restore sanity on the road soon became an instrument for extortion of innocent motorists. The streets in the numerous districts were shared out to parking space management operators who marked everywhere and designated some places as no parking areas, while allocating roadside spaces on edges of highways as car parks.  

Unfortunately, without any oversight and with the business apparently handed to cronies of some public officials, the level of corruption and extortion within the city became unprecedented. At any time during working hours, it was difficult for car owners to park on the designated spaces within the metropolis even when they were ready to pay because of the traps usually set by the operators. And since they operated without any clear rules, innocent motorists were subjected not only to hefty fines but also physical assaults in the hands of the touts who ran the show on behalf of the operators. 

Such was the level of the exploitation that even those who resided in houses located within the precincts of busy highways could not park their vehicles by the roadsides without the harassment of either the operators of the FCTA task force members. To compound the situation, because different operators were allocated different areas within the city, motorists could have different cards but knowing which to display on the vehicle became difficult. 

The FCTA administration must understand that unleashing touts on the roads in a money-making venture that makes life difficult for the people is unacceptable. We call on the National Assembly that exercises oversight over the FCT to intervene on this vexatious issue. No serious government will put in place policies that are making life difficult for the people as the Abuja authorities seem to have done lately.  

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