Thugs used by Abuja Municipal Area Council and Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage to collect levies and other bogus charges on behalf of the two agencies, have become anathema for dispatch riders, taxi drivers, and the public through their brash and intemperate manner. Olawale Ajimotokan and King Akan write on the need to tackle this anomaly.
The flagrant disregard for law and ethics is openly displayed by contract workers employed by Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage (DOAS) to collect revenue on behalf of the two bodies.
These urchins formed into a task force are a nuisance in the eyes of the public and are discernable by their appearance and mode of operation.
They have neither a valid means of identification nor a fixed official uniform as they usually adorn reflective bibs over their casual outfits.
Also, they can be very uncouth in their approach and can even resort to violence that easily exposes them to the public as hoodlums and touts that populate many motor parks across the country.
Regrettably, these hoodlums that straddle FCT roads randomly go about extorting various levies and charges from app-based taxi drivers and logistic service providers on behalf of AMAC and DOAS.
Yunusa Ismaila of Dees Rides, a logistics company based in Abuja described the humiliation he was subjected to by these hoodlums claiming they were working for both AMAC and DOAS.
He said he had been accosted by the people who forced him to pay double charges while declaring the other agency as an aberration.
He lamented that the thugs made him to pay multiple charges to both AMAC and DOAS for a permit rider to the tune of N26,000 instead of the official fee of N5,000.
"There is the issue of their staff that stay on the road. We don't know which one is AMAC or DOAS. We don't even know the real staff. Once they wear their reflective jacket, they will say they are AMAC, no ID card, no nothing. The ID cards they show you have no name or photograph for identification. The only thing written on it is AMAC. So we don't know who is their real staff," Ismaila raged.
He urged both the FCTA and AMAC to employ the right staff with the necessary training in addition to means of identification to enable them properly discharge their duty.
He also described as dubious the policy of AMAC whereby any paper that is renewed at any time of the year is automatically deemed to have expired by December of the same year instead of letting the 12 month-cycle into the following year.
Another logistics rider, Lorbee Emmanuel of Beemax Logistics concurred. He described as unfair a situation where bike riders are being chased about on the road by AMAC and DOAS over registration levies.
He said bike riders are routinely flagged down by wild-looking men who claim to be AMAC staff, adding even when they are shown AMAC papers upon request they will still demand DOAS papers.
He noted the confusion about DOAS began last year when the staff of the organisation started to go from office to office dissuading people from doing AMAC papers.
According to him, after buying their form for N2,500, he was still compelled to pay N10,000 for the papers.
Emmanuel also raised concerns about the attitude of the AMAC staff who are on the roads.
"Most of us have the papers, but the way they stand on the road, you may feel they have bad intentions, that is why we try to avoid them. Some of them hold sticks like thugs as if they are chasing a thief. And those people standing on the road are always prepared to fight us. Sometimes on one checkpoint, they can be at least five, seven, or even 10 of them.
"For example, you are speeding and you don't know they are on the road and all of a sudden they sight you, they will think you are trying to outsmart them. Before you know it they will hit you with something.
"My observation is that people who work in the office are different from the people working on the road. And we face enough problems with the people on the road. Most times we carry urgent deliveries, and if they delay us, at the end of the day the customer may cancel the order. So we face a lot of challenges with them.
"My advice is that the people in the office should tell the ones on the road that if they try to catch someone and the person flees, they should allow the person go because sometimes they cause accidents on the road."
He also pleaded with the government to agree to a specific closing time for AMAC and DOAS workers to mitigate riders from being attacked and robbed. He stated that sometimes after 6 p.m., those contract workers are still loitering under the bridge, asking riders for papers.
Sunday Bitrus of Iconic Fiverr Logistics said the solution to the AMAC and DOAS confusion is for riders to have a consolidated paper for payment that will be presented anytime riders are stopped.
On his part, Celestine Emmanuel of BTL Logistics advised AMAC to have a conspicuous office and stop the habit where payments are indiscriminately carried out on the road.
"One time they stopped me at Banex Plaza, they did papers for me on the road for N8,000," he said, adding "if you do papers in Gwarimpa, you go to Bwari or Kubwa, they will still arrest you again. They will tell you that the papers you have are for the town, that you don't have their own papers. And all of them are bearing AMAC."
Bike riders are not the only ones suffering at the hands of AMAC. Charles Ekpenyong, a Bolt driver shared his bitter experience with AMAC staff.
He said: "A few months ago, we had issues with AMAC about revenue that was supposed to be paid to them directly by Bolt. According to them, Bolt was not forthcoming with the payment so they resorted to harassing drivers on the road demanding payment. I was not arrested directly but so many of our drivers were arrested and asked to pay different amounts. Some as high as N35,000.
"What they do is to book the ride as if they are customers and when you come to pick them they take you to their office. But mostly not their main office because I think they have an office in Jabi and one in Garki. They take the drivers to their task force office and issue them receipts after payments.
"But I think the issue with Bolt has been resolved because we are no longer harassed. For those that paid before the resolution, they were asked to tender their receipts to Bolt, but I don't know if they refunded anyone."
Speaking further, he said other area councils, particularly Bwari Area Council appeared to have taken a cue from AMAC as they have also started arresting drivers to demand revenue too.
"We have six area councils in Abuja and I think Bolt is paying mainly AMAC because most of our activities are within the town which is AMAC.
"I drove to Kubwa one time which is under Bwari Area Council and some of their task force guys stopped me asking 'are you Bolt'? But I didn't answer because I knew they were after our drivers. Before I knew what was happening, they had blocked my front and back and had attempted to remove my plate number. When I noticed this, I had to manoeuvre and speed off because I did not allow them to enter the vehicle. If they had entered inside the car it would have been a different story.
"Before I sped off, I overheard them saying that I was driving in their own area of jurisdiction so I was supposed to pay. So it is a case of multiple taxations or revenue payments. Especially Bwari Area Council because it is closer to AMAC than other area councils," Ekpenyong said.