Controversial Abuja parking toll service has hit another snag as two providers have dragged the city administration to court for exclusion, ahead of its planned comeback.
The companies are seeking an order of an Abuja High Court to halt the scheme because the city authorities allegedly ignored a contract which would have seen them collect parking tolls on behalf of the city for five years, to search for new toll collectors in the planned comeback.
The aggrieved companies, Platinum Parking Management (PPMS) and Integrated Parking Service accused the Abuja (FCT) Minister, Bala Mohammed, FCT Development Authority and the FCT Transportation Secretary, Jonathan Ivoke, of unjustly knocking them off the job to make room for new companies.
The Abuja authorities are to appear before the High Court of the FCT judiciary Division on May 21.
The aggrieved toll collectors are demanding N1 billion pay-off as damages for putting them off business and jeopardizing their investments.
The controversial policy
In 2014, Justice Peter Affen, of the FCT high Court suspended the park and pay policy in the Abuja city centre. The judge declared the policy illegal following a suit brought by a private savings and loan firm in the Nigerian capital.
The FCT Transport Secretary, Jonathan Ivoke, argued that contract with the aggrieved toll collectors was invalidated by the court’s declaration that the entire scheme was illegal.
“Once the court declared the policy as illegal, it simply means that every transaction, deeds done while the policy existed is also illegal,”he said.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the Abuja administration hired four companies to collect parking fees from motorists around the city centre. The companies engaged in high-handedness and abused car owners shortly before they were suspended. Motorists in Abuja complained of extortion and fraud by the officials of these companies who clamp vehicle tyres, several times on dubious reasons, forcing motorists to part with thousands of naira in fines.
The managing director, PPMS, Segun Olanrewaju, told PREMIUM TIMES that in 2003, he proposed the idea of parking control management in Abuja Metropolis to the FCT Minister. He explained that his idea was to help generate revenue, maintain sensible parking and create about 12 thousand jobs.
Mr. Olanrewaju said that in 2010, he signed a five-year binding contract with the city authorities for installation, operation and maintenance of on-street parking.
The service took off proper two years later, in May, 2012, with the two aggrieved companies. They were to remit 10 per cent of the generated revenue and pay the sum of N5 million annually.
He said both companies accepted and kept paying until it was suspended in 2014.
“I spent four hundred million naira in order to actualize the safe and sensible parking in FCT,” he lamented.
The Managing Director of IPS, Iliyasu Adu, told PREMIUM TIMES that barely two years in the contract, the FCT Transport Secretary, Mr. Ivoke, accused both companies of making excess money from the process.
“I and Olanrewaju received a memo, saying that the contract has been reviewed and the money has been increased from 10 per cent to 40 per cent,” he said.
While Mr. Olanrewaju opposed that review and refused to pay the 40per cent demanded by the Transport Secretary, his counterpart at IPS agreed to pay the increase.
Shortly after the project took off, the city authorities, in 2012, registered two more companies – Automaten Technik Haumann Nigeria and Safe Parking Limited – and assigned each of them to different areas of Abuja where the companies would enforce parking laws and punish errant drivers.
The aggrieved contractors claimed that the termination of the service by the court last year, one year before the contract was planned to expire, hurt their business and are asking to, at least, complete their contract.