In what appears to be a new understanding between Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), on who is constitutionally empowered to administer Park and Pay Policy (PaPP) FCT, AMAC, on September 1, 2023, began implementation of the policy in the Council.
Nigerians, particularly, residents of FCT, may recall that FCTA had introduced Park and Pay policy in FCT, in 2014, and there was an issue in it that prompted a private individual to approach the FCT High court through his lawyer, E. F. Okwubanego, regarding Park and Pay policy and the court gave judgment through the Presiding Judge, Peter O. Affen. “The private citizen had asked the court in paragraphs 2, 3, and 5 whether the Park and Pay scheme of the Defendant (FCTA) is pursuant to an Act of the National Assembly as provided by the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and whether the Defendant can exercise the powers to collect tax, fee or rate for parking and also prescribe fee for failure to pay for the parking within the streets and roads of the FCT without an Act of the National Assembly prescribing for such.
“The Presiding Judge, Peter O. Affen, said that the defendants may exercise powers or discharge functions conferred on them by extant Acts of the National Assembly insofar as such Acts are not inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 constitution. “He said that where an Act of the National Assembly, such as the Road Traffic Act, expressly authorities a local authority, including the 1st and 2nd defendants, to make a bye-law inter alia specifying parking places and fixing fees or rates payable as well as imposing penalty, therefore, the defendants can validly do so.“Since the judgment was made, there has been no appeal or another judgment to question the judgment passed by the court in favor of AMAC.”
One remarkable take-away from the new but legal Park and Pay Policy in AMAC is the rule of law disposition of the current political leadership of FCTA. Before now, the authorities in FCTA had been running “Park and Pay” advertorial on a popular Radio Programm, Brekete Family Show in Abuja. In fact, the advertorial was so packaged and delivered that many residents of FCT had braced up for new improved PaP Policy in Abuja. So, for them, FCTA to realize that constitutionally, they are not the appropriate authority to implement the policy, and accepted without disobeying the law, show a great sign of maturity, which is the hallmark of democracy.
It will be recalled that only recently, the Chairman of AMAC, Honorable Christopher Maikalangu, through the Supervisory Councilor, Emmanuel Iyang, in a press briefing told Nigerians in AMAC that the Council has not signed away its rights to collection of taxes and other revenue to anyone in FCT. This was in response to the news making the rounds that AMAC had ceded its constitutional right and authority to collect taxes within its jurisdiction, under an arrangement called, Revenue Harmonization in FCT. If that had been the case, the issue of PnP would have been a lost case.
The piece of news from the Chairman, through Emmanuel Iyang that the FCT IRS has retracted its statement and action regarding revenue generation in AMAC is a welcome development. Hear the Chairman: — “After our last engagement with the media, we decided to address the press again today to abreast them on development between the Abuja Municipal Area Council and the FCT IRS. We are pleased to announce that the FCT IRS has retracted their statement and action regarding revenue generation in AMAC. The FCT IRS has served AMAC and all the organizations they hitherto served demand notices. “FCT IRS apologized to the council over the demand notices to different organizations within AMAC, saying it was an error. We have accepted the apology, hence this engagement with the media to update them on developments since the last media briefing. —-.
Will the revenue generated through this Park and Pay Policy in the Council be utilized for the common good of Nigerians in AMAC? Although, going by the trajectory of Hon Maikalangu in the Council in terms of provision of democracy dividend in the last one year in office, there is no reason to believe that revenue generated from this policy will not be well utilized. Without sounding patronizing, Hon Maikalangu has done well in AMAC in the period motioned. As experience has shown, the last time the policy was introduced in FCT by FCTA; it is on record that thugs were recruited to drive it. The horrible experience motorists harvested these thugs, is at best, traumatizing and better forgotten than remembered. The question here is, will motorists be well treated this time around?
Here are the promises made by Honourable Christopher Maikalangu on how PaP Policy will be implemented, and how the Revenue generated will be utilized in AMAC:
From the Chairman’s mouth directly:–“Residents should be patient with us as we implement the Park and Pay policy. It is for our internally generated revenue, which we will use in providing basic amenities to AMAC residents, including roads, electricity, potable water, basic education, and healthcare, among others. We have been providing the above to AMAC residents and we will do more as our revenue improves. “The Park and Pay policy will take place in the City Center including areas within Wuse and Garki. The areas have Maitama, Asokoro, among others.
The payment is N100 per hour. The charge is moderate and with a human face.
This is because some people come to park their cars and stay long hours in a particular area. Therefore, the policy will restore sanity in the city center. “Anyone who parks will be given a ticket, which will read the time. Anyone who defaults will have his or her vehicle impounded. Our taskforce and mobile courts will be there to ensure we don’t take laws into our hands. From time immemorial, we have been law abiding citizens at AMAC and will definitely continue to implement the policy with a human face. “The Park and Pay policy has many advantages for AMAC and FCT residents. For one, the charge for parking will reduce congestion of cars as some will think twice before parking for a long time when they don’t have any business to attend to. Therefore, it will guard against people coming to park their vehicles and going home to sleep. If you can recall, people pay money to park vehicles at the airport when they want to travel. Also, there was a time you paid at Transcorp hotel. You would be charged if you stayed a longer time than necessary.”
He added: “This is also to alert residents that we have places where defaulting vehicles will be kept. Everything in the vehicle will be safe until the fine is paid. There will be no question of claiming that one item or the other is missing in the vehicle. We will be extra careful in this aspect to ensure safety of cars in our possession. “Also, as you are aware, corporate parking exists in different organizations for workers who work longer hours and need to park their cars in front of offices lacking parking spaces. So, we have made provisions for organizations to pay us annually for parking spaces. As I said, we are approaching this with human face, so we will negotiate with organizations.
“For the benefit of hindsight, no one will be allowed to park in green areas or walkways to inconvenience others. We won’t tolerate that. We will impound vehicles that were wrongly parked or that were parked to inconvenience other road users. “As I pointed out earlier, the Park and Pay policy has many advantages. Apart from decongesting parks, it will also help us to reduce car theft in the city center, which is frequent. Once you park your vehicle, your will be given a ticket and a tag bearing the details of your car, including the plate number. There is no way you will take the car without providing the tag you were given.
“Our men will be there to check the tag against the plate number. Even if you claim to have lost your tag, you will provide authentic details to satisfy us that it is actually your car. That way, no one will steal a vehicle under our watch. “As for commercial drivers, we will enter negotiations with them if they want to be parking frequently. Commercial drivers can be paying monthly or yearly. We have a human face and will make sure everyone benefits.”
This writer expects Municipal Area Council to come up with handbook for motorists on Park and Pay Policy in the Council. Adequate enlightenment on the policy should be made as well. One expects the Council to put in place, a good feedback mechanism that will lead to effective and efficient PaPP in AMAC. In all, the Council must walk its talk on the policy.
Emeka Oraetoka is Communications Consultant @ Gilt-Edge Communications.
He writes from Abuja.