Park n Pay scheme promises revenue, job creation potentials for economy -IPS boss

The implementation of Park and Pay scheme in the Federal Capital Territory has been generating controversies. From alleged high-handedness and impunity exhibited by the operators of the scheme, the crudity of the officials, to the financial burden the scheme has constituted to motorists. In this interview with OLUFEMI ADEOSUN, the Managing Director of Integrated Parking Services Limited, one of the companies operating the scheme, Mr. Iliyasu Abdu, speaks on the benefits of the scheme to the city’s transportation system and how it would generate revenue and create jobs. Excerpt:

The operation of “on-street parking scheme” at the FCT has been generating a lot of controversies since it began some months ago. As one of the concessionaires, how would you describe the scheme?

Parking management is a kind of scheme introduced by municipalities all over the world to control and sanitise the cities and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja will not be an exception. The FCT was designed by the founding fathers to conform to all the parameters that a modern city should have for smooth and convenient living. So, on-street parking is not one run-off thing, it has been in the design from the day the city was conceptualised.

The FCT administration, in its wisdom, deemed it fit that it was the right time to activate this scheme to control the flow of traffic in the city. In order to achieve this purpose, the FCT government called for companies who are competent in managing traffic to come and bid for it. Over 30 companies bided, but two companies were licensed to manage parking in Abuja -Integrated Parking Service Limited and Platinum Traffic Management Services. However, about three months after, two other companies- Najev/Save parking Limited and ATB were also licensed, making four companies in all.

Beyond raising the internally generated revenue profile of the FCT, what other purpose is the new parking scheme expected to serve?

The essence of the parking management is to restore orderliness at the city centre. Before the eventual introduction of the Park and Pay system, the indiscriminate parking in Abuja had almost defaced the beauty of the capital city. Apart from that, there was also the issue of congestion arising from wrongful parking. However, since the on-street parking scheme was introduced, congestion on our roads has been reduced and sanity restored.

What is the mode of operation of the scheme between the four concessionaires and the FCT administration?

The scheme is designed to be operated by private investors under a Public Private Partnership arrangement. You and I know that the best way to manage public infrastructure is to leave it in the hands of private investors. It was for this reason we were invited to run the parking scheme. The FCT administration gave us its conditions and we are operating within the purview of the agreement. We have a sharing ratio, but the term of our agreement does not allow us to disclose it.

In your estimation, how much do you think this scheme would have generated for the FCTA administration since it became operational about 18months ago?

Apart from the fact that the Park and Pay system has brought sanity to the street of Abuja, it has also helped in an immeasurable way to raise the IGR of the FCT administration. For instance, IPS which is just one of the four companies operating the scheme has generated over N48.6million for the government since it was licensed to manage the Park and Pay system at the Zone A of Abuja, comprising Wuse 2, Utako and some parts of the Central Business District, CBD. If only one company out of the four managing scheme could generate as much as that, you can imagine how much the scheme would generated from all the operators put together.

Is there any law that defines your relationship with the people, because since the scheme began there have been a lot of complaints about the mode of operation?

We are working under the FCT transportation law; those laws guide the VIO operation. In other words, we are under the law guiding FCT transportation system. This law which has already been gazetted gives us the authority to implement the scheme as packaged by the FCTA.

Could you give us the instances under which a car is deemed to be wrongly parked and therefore, be towed?

The scheme is conceived to bring sanity on our road in Abuja. In this case, if your car is wrongly parked, it would be towed away. To answer your question, regarding the ground upon which a car could be towed. First, if you park on a walkway thereby infringing on the rights of pedestrians, your car will be towed. Also, if you duly obtain a ticket and it lapses, your car will also be towed. The idea behind this is that, you cannot hold a public space in perpetuity. Since it is a time-based parking system, we place high premium on timeliness. Another instance when a car could be towed is when it is parked in an unauthorised place.

You spoke about decongesting the city which is a valid point, but how can you decongest a city without providing mass transit system?

You have to commend the present administration in the FCT for its various innovative schemes geared toward making life comfortable for the residents in Abuja. The government is making efforts on all fronts to address the issue of transportation in the city. For instance, the FCTA administration procured some buses recently to fill the vacuum created by the ban on (Araba), the popular Abuja bus service system. It is part of the strategies to decongest the city centre and put it on the same pedestal with other major cities around the world. I am sure you are also aware that the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed recently inaugurated a mono-rail transport system in Abuja. We may not have reached our destination, but the journey has begun.

There have been complaints against some of your enforcement officials. Some of them are alleged to be uncouth in the way they relate with their clients. What efforts are you making to ensure that they are properly trained to discharge their duties in a civilised manner?

Staff training and retraining are essential elements of the Park and Pay scheme. Without adequate training, these people can’t be on the street because let me be frank with you, nobody wakes up in the morning and wants to pay a fine or is ready to pay for parking. To deal with such shades of the people, we need men who are professionally trained to withstand insults.

One of the basic attributes we demand from our workers is the ability to work under pressure and not lose your calm. Once you are recruited, we ensure that you are trained on how to relate with the people on a monthly basis. Apart from that, we also ensure that we put our new recruits on three weeks training before they can be allowed to go out for enforcement.

However, I wouldn’t say all of them are good because we still have some bad eggs and whenever they are caught, they will be shown the way out. There are acceptable standard in parking industry all over the world, and we must uphold the standards in Nigeria. That we are having complaints about the scheme is not unexpected. For instance, In Oklahoma, United States where parking has been on since 1936, people still have complaints over ticketing.

In the receipt you issue after booking for a parking space, you indicate that you are not liable in the event of theft. If you are paid, is it not right to say, you should take responsibility for the safety of the car?

I am a fellow of the International Parking Institute and I know what is obtainable in other climes. All over the world, parking is for the facility you are using and paying for, parking is not to secure your vehicle. So, nobody takes responsibility for the content in your car. If it is not designed that way, there will be a lot of litigations to contend with, not only in Nigeria but in other places where it is practised. However, since the scheme started in Abuja, there has been substantial reduction in the level of car theft. The reason is obvious: the mere fact that our men parade the roads makes it difficult for the people who steal car to do so. If you go to the police, they will tell you the level of car theft has come down drastically because of the activities of our officials.

There is also the allegation that some of your enforcement officials are often aggressive to customers because they are poorly paid. How would you react to this?

That is not true. Here, our staff are well paid relative to their job experience, and the type of jobs they are recruited to do. For instance, the minimum wage here is N25, 000.Apart from that; there are other available options through which they can make extra money. For instance, we give them bonus on every unit of ticket sold. I disagree with any insinuation that they clamp cars because they are not well paid. That couldn’t be true. There is a clear line of duty here; the officials, who are responsible for the enforcement of the parking rules, are different from those who give out tickets.

What is the potential market value of this scheme if replicated in other major cities in the country?

According to the Customs Service, the statistics of vehicles coming to Nigeria on a daily basis is about 600,000.If this is properly harnessed, I can tell you that parking can generate more than 100,000 paid jobs and a revenue potential of over N200bn. By the time we have adequate facilities to support it, Nigerians would also be amazed at the number of investors that would like to invest in the Park and Pay scheme.

The way the Park and Pay system is being operated now is fraught with varied anomalies. Have you made recommendations to the FCT administration on how to improve its implementation?

This is a new scheme that the people are trying to adjust to. I agree with you that there may be one hitch or another in the implementation, but that does not rob on its enormous benefits. The FCT administration is taking the bull by the horn; on regular basis we have meetings with them to discuss some of the challenges inherent in the new scheme. We need to create employment opportunities for our teaming youths and I believe this scheme can play a veritable role in helping the government in this respect.

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