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Bala Mohammed from Bauchi State was elected by his people to represent them at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for a term of four years from 2007. Mid-way into his tenure as a Senator, he crossed the political Rubicon and emerged the minister of Abuja by an appointment that was offered to him by the then Acting President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan who emerged to replace his then boss Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'adua whose precise whereabouts was unknown to the Nigerian people following his hospitalization in an unknown foreign hospital.

The then President Yar'adua later passed on and was succeeded by his then Vice President-Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan became acting President following the passage by the National Assembly (specifically, the Senate) of what was known as Doctrine of necessity. This unusual piece of legislation came about because the then President was flown out of the Country without any official letter of transfer of power in line with the constitution to his then Vice President.

Ever since he became the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the nation's capital has deteriorated in aesthetics, sanitation and good urban planning even as all manners of taxations have been unleashed on the residents of the nation's capital.

The most notorious of this tax regime is the obscene fees paid by car owners for parking along the side ways of major roads clearly demarcated which were hitherto free of charge and these fees are collected by fierce looking young persons from different companies registered by the Federal Capital Territory Administration.

Some of these companies that have employed fierce looking, energetic young persons include one that is known as integrated parking services limited which charges as much as N5000 for alleged parking violation even for five seconds.

I understand that the Abuja authority also works with other private firms to generate huge revenue from car owners who make use of these road-side parking spaces in Maitama, Wuse II, Asokoro and the Central Business District and that Abuja residents who fail to pay the N600 (Six hundred naira) daily parking fees are thereby compelled to pay fines ranging from N5000 (Five thousand naira) to N20, 000(Twenty thousand naira).

In the last six months, our group has received series of complaints from members of the public on alleged harassment, intimidation and physical assaults they suffer on daily basis in the hands of these 'macho-men' who are ever so determined to make the alleged violators to part with these huge sums as fines imposed for violating their so-called offences. Some of the offences tabulated in the receipts of the parking violation notice include but not limited to non-display of valid ticket; standing improperly from parked position and parking on slow track of multi-carriage way.

Another mysterious fact about these companies is that their operatives also work in the late hours of the day even after official close of work such as 5pm. Woe betide you as a car owner if you are caught in the webs of these ministerial 'thugs' if you argue with them on the obnoxious fees and fines they impose.

Is this how Abuja should be administered? Why would a political appointee allegedly unleash fierce looking young persons with one purpose in mind-extort as much money as you can from unsuspecting members of the general public? I stand to be corrected.

Why has the authority of the Federal Capital Territory Administration failed to clean up the nation's capital but is always in a mad rush to extort the impoverished members of the public?

Importantly, why are there no avenues for seeking redress by the members of the public who genuinely want to lay complaints on alleged harassment by these dangerous looking young men who force motorists to part with huge amount of money as fines for alleged parking violations?

The Consumer protection Council and the Public Complaints Commission are yet to introduce workable and effective measures on how members of the general public could file and obtain efficacious redress for alleged violations of their rights by these “energetic traffic tax collectors” in Abuja.

From brief history of the 'new' Federal Capital Territory Administration was published. The establishment of the Federal Capital Territory Administration is one of the key elements of the Administrative reforms of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to reposition the FCT towards enhanced service delivery.

The reforms, according to the official website, brought about significant changes in the administrative structure of the FCT. In line with this, Seven (7) new Mandate Secretariats were created.

“The establishment of the Secretariats heralded the appointment of non-career civil servants into mainstream administration of the FCT. The idea was aimed at bringing governance closer to the people by limiting the administrative bottlenecks that hitherto slowed down developmental process of the FCT”, so stated the website.

Even the so-called reforms and the aggressive taxation drive of the Federal Capital Territory administration have not stopped the Federal Government from borrowing all manner of loans from certain foreign authorities.

Recently, the Nigerian Government went cap –in- hand to borrow from the Chinese government the sum of $1.1billion [USD] for the development of the Abuja light rail project and the intra-city rail network.

Where are all these heavy fines imposed and extorted from the Abuja residents then since Government has continued the despicable venture of borrowing to fix the infrastructure?

Abuja minister is advised to reflect on the meaning of the wise word on the practical implication of human rights as formulated by Roselyn Higgins.

Roselyn Higgins wrote thus; “Individuals everywhere want the same essential things: to have sufficient food and shelter; to be able to speak freely; to practice their own religion or abstain from religious belief, to feel that their person is not threatened by the state, to know that they will not be tortured or detained without charge, and that if charged they will have a fair trial….”

* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria; [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Emmanuel Onwubiko