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Before implementing park and pay policy

Recently, to the surprise of many residents, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) announced plans to reintroduce the park and pay policy in the territory. …

Recently, to the surprise of many residents, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) announced plans to reintroduce the park and pay policy in the territory.  This is because the policy had hitherto been suspended by a court. The policy entails charging motorists certain fees for parking along the streets of the city.

The Director of Traffic Management of the FCTA, Wadata Bodinga, said the policy was aimed at bringing sanity and addressing disturbing traffic congestion, noting that the first phase of the exercise would be human-friendly and would commence in March, in areas like Maitama and Wuse at no cost to vehicle owners.

Bodinga explained that the policy was necessary following the rapid population growth in Abuja and its resulting traffic congestion.

He said, “With the present state of the FCT traffic irregularities which pose a great hazard towards road users, the reintroduction of the on-street parking scheme by the administration will mitigate these challenges to the barest minimum.

“While the on-street parking scheme may seem overbearing for some users, the scheme impacts positively on the residents and economic activities through improving customer experience and promoting an efficient parking management system.”

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The policy was first introduced in 2014, but it was trailed with allegations of harassment by sundry agents, extortion, illegal clamping of tyres and forcing of dubious electronic parking fees on motorists.

Eventually, the authority was forced to stop it following a court order. The judge had in a suit brought by SunTrust Savings and Loans Limited challenging its legality, ruled that the policy lacked the backing of the law.

However, in announcing the reintroduction of the policy, Wadata said the FCT Parking Regulations 2019 had sufficient provisions for the scheme and assured that all the legal issues that were an impediment had been resolved.

It is gratifying that the FCTA has reviewed the regulations on road usage in the city to address the anomalies that made the system chaotic and subjected residents to hardship. Indeed the city needs a seamless traffic management system as obtained in major cities the world over.

However, as usual with many government policies, the problem is in its implementation.

It is in this regard that we at Daily Trust call on the authorities to ensure that they provide well-defined parking spaces in the city to make it easy for compliance. The authorities should also consider providing designated parking lots across the city where motorists can safely park their vehicles for a fee.

Similarly, there is the need for a massive enlightenment programme on the policy and what it entails, especially the rights and duties of both the motorists and the companies that will run the scheme. Effort must be made to assuage  the fears of residents while making them to see the merits of the scheme. It is important that this policy gets the buy-in of residents before implementation commences. The authourities must avoid the unnecessary confrontations between motorists and officials of such companies that were prevalent under the old system. It should be made clear to the operators that their personnel should be civil in dealings with the public and they should be easily identifiable.

The FCTA should also be open and accountable with the collections from the scheme. Needless to say that citizens buy more into a programme which is open and accountable. In addition, the charges should be moderate in view of the economic difficulties many Nigerians are facing.

But more importantly, it is time the authority resuscitates its mass transit policy. As of now, the teeming population of the territory is being serviced by aged buses of the Abuja Urban Mass Transit which have been in use for more than 15 years.

The authorities have forgotten about the much-talked about Abuja Light Rail. The operations of the airport-to-the-city centre inaugurated about five years ago has been under suspension for nearly two years. It should be obvious to the authorities that no city survives without an efficient mass transit. We believe many Abuja residents will abandon their cars at home if they are sure of an efficient mass transit. This will also reduce the congestion being experienced in the city.