Indiscriminate conversion of road sides and public places into motor parks is drawing concerns among residents of the Nigeria’s seat of power, Abuja, Daily Trust reports
The sudden proliferation of illegal motor parks in Abuja is causing problems and becoming inimical to the masterplan and serenity of the capital city. Apart from that, such roadside motor parks are increasingly constituting nuisance to residence and motorists, coupled with other attendant risks to public wellbeing.
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In recent times, these ‘unauthorised’ motor parks can be spotted in different parts of Abuja, causing traffic gridlocks and congestions in the areas they operate.
They have also become homes to touts and criminals who operate freely, especially in the evenings, threatening the safety of commuters and residents alike.
However, some members of the public see them as lifelines to a large number of youths who engage in variety of lawful businesses there and so, take their minds off social vices in the society.
Daily Trust on Sunday visited some of these places, which include the ones at Mabushi, AYA Interchange way, Apo Junction, Area 1 Roundabout and those along Kubwa/Zuba expressways.
Our reporter, who posed as a passenger at the ever-busy Mubashi illegal park, observed fleet of vehicles loaded with passengers taking off to Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and other northwestern states.
The illegal park was congested up to the main road and motorists were struggling to drive out of the gridlock, while some touts were seen controlling the traffic to favour the operators.
Down the road was a local concoction seller — “Sweet 16”, arguing the justification of President Buhari’s arrest to proscribed IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. Both passengers and motorist seem interested in the topic, and joined in the argument/conversation.
At the AYA Interchange way junction Asokoro, the roadside was filled to the brim when our reporter visited around 8am. The illegal park officials and touts were busy loading passengers into vehicles and the drivers reward them with N100 bills.
Here, most of the drivers commute passengers to Keffi, Nasarawa, Lafia and Makurdi. And just like Mabushi, the operators there also inconvenience motorists coming out from the Asokoro axis.
Kayode Lawan, a resident of the area, told this reporter that he always plans his movement to avoid being caught up in the gridlock caused by the illegal motor park.
“Sometimes, I prefer taking the longer route to avoid this traffic, because once you find yourself in this condition, you stand the risk of your car being damaged or someone insulting you,” he said.
At Apo, the situation is different. The illegal operators were seen rushing to get passengers, calling the names of their destination. Yusuf Suleiman told our reporter that anyone plying that route during rush hours would have a high price to pay. “This is because half of the service lane is always occupied with their vehicles.”
Two similar illegal motor parks are equally booming close to the fly-over bridge in Nyanya town, in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
One of the operators told our reporter that both parks sprung up following the infamous Nyanya bomb blast incident that scared commuters in the area.
During the visit on Wednesday, our reporter observed a great number of motorists loading outside the park, a situation that contributes to the nightmare of Nyanya/Mararaba gridlock that scares motorists and commuters.
Also, sandwiched between the two parks are dozens of other illegal ones, or those that operate in makeshift condition without any government regulation.
One of the leaders of the illegal park operators, who doesn’t want to be named, said that such parks will continue to spring up in Abuja until government decides to provide more parks within and outside the capital city.
“It will surprise you to know that we only have one official motor park in the whole FCT, situated at Utako district, which is owned by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
“The park was established decades ago to take care of a very small population and since then, no extension has been made or attempts to build another one despite the population explosion. That is the reason why many of us decided to establish these so called illegal motor parks.
“It will surprise you to know that the Utako Park is continuing to lose its sections to the private companies that bought the facilities to build shopping malls and offices.
“So far, 3 sections of the park namely, Urban-mass where state governments owned buses companies are operating; Luxury bus section which serves as terminal to jumbo buses; as well as van and open truck section, dedicated for logistic transportation, were all reportedly sold off,” he revealed.
When our correspondent visited Utako market, he observed a section carved out of the park and construction had reached advanced stage.
Ja’afar Abdulmalik, one the drivers interviewed, lamented that the situation has since affected their operation.
“As we are talking, two of the three owners of the park space have ejected motorists from the facilities. We do they want us to do?”
He explained that the situation has forced them to park their vehicles close to the main road, which he said, has turned them to the prey of various task force officials.
At the Utako Motor Park, a passenger, Abubakar Saidu, said he cannot take the risk of boarding a vehicle outside the legal park, “I wouldn’t have peace of mind. I’ve heard many stories of passengers who lost their lives to miscreants after they boarded vehicles at illegal parks.
“Also, there is always a manifest with records of passengers in case of an accident. The park will have details to contact the relatives of the deceased or those who were critically injured,” he said.
“Also, the drivers here are trained and known by the park officials, so the issue of one-chance is very unlikely here.”
Usman Ahmed, a driver who shuttles between Abuja and Kaduna, revealed that some of the illegal park operators deliberately refused to register with the motor parks in order to avoid paying the union’s dues and other taxes to the park authority.
He said to register a vehicle with a motor park costs a driver less than N5,000.
Available facts gathered by Daily Trust on Saturday revealed that ownership and control of these illegal motor parks are promoted by government officials, who should ordinarily enforce the regulatory laws prohibiting the existence of such parks.
The spokesman of the NURTW, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter, Alhaji Ibrahim Sanda Kuje, lamented that the FCT government did not give motor parks the priority they deserved.
He said motor parks, which serve as a source of livelihood to millions of citizens and generate internal revenue for government have been seriously neglected in Abuja.
He explained that Abuja needs double of the existing motor parks in order to serve its ever-growing population.
The spokesman also alleged that some government officials have hijacked the business from their members, citing the activities of road side loading to private vehicle owners who he alleged include government officials or security men.
Another NURTW official, Abubakar Bello, said that taskforce officials are making efforts to raid the illegal operators but they always make stop-over along highways to woo passengers to different parts of the country.
“We made request for a new space and the FCT regulatory officials graciously granted it to us at Zuba axis,” he said.
“We engaged our union taskforce to prevent the illegal activity but it turns out that some of these drivers are security men or government officials, and we could not enforce the law against them,” Bello added.
Also contacted, the National president of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Alhaji Musa Muhammed Maitakobi, told Daily Trust on Sunday that constitutionally, it is the responsibility of local government to provide parks.
“However, in places like Abuja, the federal capital territory administration has to come in”.
He said, RTEAN as a body that own transport vehicles and provides employment for millions of Nigerians had applied for land from the FCT authority to build motor parks without success.
“We also made the same request for RTEAN headquarters, but none of the requests has so far been granted. It has been ages now. We are not happy with the upsurge of illegal parks in the capital city, that is why we are pushing for our park to help government address the issue,” he added.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the Federal Capital Territory’s Transport Secretariat, the director in charge of information in the secretariat, Ifeanyi Ughamadu, said the secretary was not on seat and requested the reporter to return the next day but on getting there, he was told the secretary was in a meeting.
All effort to get to him proved abortive, as he didn’t respond to phone calls, in addition to the time spent waiting for him in the office.