7 October 2012

Nigeria: Abuja's Growing Illegal Motor Parks


Asides the regular motor-parks in the FCT, many other mini ones are springing up by the day with negative consequences

Motor-parks by their indispensable nature for residents of any city no doubt have their vital uses as far as commuting of people in any major city is concerned. Abuja is one large city not left out. It has many which such parks where residents go when they need to travel in and out of the capital city. Notable among such are Nyanyan, Utako, Wuse and Gwagwalada parks which attract many commuters on daily basis especially those travels out of town on a lean budget. The privately owned parks usually charge steep prices for transportation of commuters to different parts of the country. That no doubt explains why most people prefer to use the services of the regular parks whose fares are regulated to a large extent.

But a far cheaper means of transport is becoming a norm for many in recent past. Investigation reveals that many unofficial parks are springing up by the day in many parts of the capital city. These parks are not regulated by any proper supervisory body but they are becoming an inevitable choice for most travellers in search of cheaper means of transportation in and around the city. Interestingly most of these illegal parks can be found not more than a stone throw from the regular motor-parks.

In Nyanyan for instance not far away from the central motor park many commercial drivers plying interstate routes have set up a mini park away from the prying eyes of park officials and they regularly attract customers travelling out of the capital city. In most cases their rates are less than what obtains at the main park. This explains why most commuters prefer to join such vehicles rather than enter into the park to join one of the official ones.

A park official told Sunday Trust that anyone who engages the services of any of these unregistered motorists risks his or her life. He said the fact that they are not registered with the union is a pointer that getting aboard such vehicles is a dangerous venture. 'In the registered parks any vehicles that picks up passengers are no doubt registered with the union. God forbid if an accident occurs on the way, there is a record which is in the possession of the union office which shows the names, addresses and next of kin of each passenger in the vehicle. That means that getting access to the information pertaining to the passenger is guaranteed for security purposes. Also if the driver turns out to be a criminal and the lives of the passengers are put in danger during the journey, there is also a record that will help security operatives nab the offending driver. Every vehicle that operates or picks up passengers inside the park is registered by the union. Passengers that equally engage the services of a driver in the park are also documented. But for those outside the park this is not so. That is why many passengers have disappeared in the past en-route their destinations due because they just got into the vehicle of ritualists posing as commercial drivers...'

At the ever bustling Mararraba Tipper Garage, a similar scenario plays out on daily basis. Ironically the number of vehicles on the road leading to the motor park outnumbers those found inside the park. Many of the travellers unwilling to go through the hassles of registering in the park with one of the buses going out of town simply engage the services of the 'outside park.' The attendant chaos resulting from the presence of many of these unofficial transporters adds to the frantic traffic snarl-ups the area is known for. A commuter Kemi Adedeji believes that the presence of these illegal parks account in major part for the huge traffic chaos that besets motorists coming into Mararraba from the Abuja city centre on a daily basis. 'These illegal parks should be discouraged. The road has its own unique challenges of course but they add to the confusion as many of them wrongly park on the road as they call out to customers. If they are removed the traffic situation will improve a bit.' The presence of the Nassarawa state task force which has somewhat brought a bit of sanity to the Mararraba bridge area has unfortunately not tackled the menace as there are unconfirmed reports that the task force willingly turns a blind eye to the activities of these drivers once they are 'settled' (bribed).

Secretary to the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Nyanyan, Mararraba axis, Aliyu Ahmed however told Sunday Trust that the union was doing all it could to arrest operators of these illegal parks not only in his domain but in other parts of the city. he said that the union had in place a task force that enforces the ban on such parks and this has recorded a lot of success. 'We have a task force unit that arrests these illegal operators and hands them over to the police. We also encourage most of them to join the union. There is enough space for all of them to operate within all our parks. But they always prefer to operate outside the park because they easily get passengers when they bring down their fares from what obtains in the park. And you know Nigerians,' they will always go for the cheapest bargain. But we are doing all we can to stop this illegal practice and am glad to say that we are slowly recording success,' he noted.

For those who think the issue is limited to the outskirts, a visit to the long stretch of road leading to the giant Utako Park, reveals such ubiquitous parks too, taking roots gradually. These commercial drivers with no identifying company banners set store usually outside the already known ones in the area. Due to their relatively cheaper prices, many travellers prefer to use their services rather than visit the major parks. A commuter who regularly travels to the eastern part of the country via these illegal parks summarises the reason why many patronise these parks. 'They are cheaper. They are faster during the journey. You do not have to face many hassles while registering like you do in most of these official and private transporting companies. But I sincerely think it is the price differential in fares that attracts many to them...'

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