A good idea but it requires more clarification and streamlining

In line with the purpose for its establishment last year by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, the Lagos State Parking Authority (LASPA) has commenced collection of levies from corporate organisations with on-street/setback parking lots, and car park operators, commercial and non-commercial, in the state.

Although the authority was established to promote parking policies in line with national transport policies by advancing knowledge, raising standards and assessment of related fees, its establishment as well as collection of the parking levy have become controversial.

A letter dated August 15, signed by LASPA’s General Manager, Adebisi Adelabu, and reportedly cited by TheCable, asking a Lekki-based company, Nellies, to pay a total sum of N290,000 per annum for the parking slots outside the company’s premises has sparked controversy. According to the letter, the company is to pay N80,000 per annum on each of the three parking slots for off-street and a non-refundable N50,000 administrative processing fee within seven days of receiving the letter. According to reports, the company’s founder, Nelly Agbogu, initially protested because he thought the levy was for vehicles parked within the company’s premises. He later apologised when LASPA clarified that it was for vehicles parked outside.

Adelabu, said the agency would not charge on cars parked in any compound.

“The general public must be aware that LASPA or any of its staffers or agents will not charge on cars parked in any compound but if anyone parks on the setback, such person, organisation or group of persons will be charged accordingly”, he said. And, for the avoidance of doubt, he defined setback as “… the space between your perimeter fencing and the walkway or the road, as the case may be. Whoever claims he/she owns a setback around his/her property will have to provide official documentation from the authorised MDA in Lagos State showing the legal ownership of the said setback and the Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) certificate of the property to the authority.”

Notwithstanding this clarification, some people still feel that the state government lacked the power to collect such levy. Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is one of such persons. According to Falana, the policy is unconstitutional and should therefore be withdrawn forthwith. “By virtue of Section 7 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, it is the exclusive constitutional responsibility of local governments to establish and maintain motor parks in any of the states of the federation,” the lawyer said. He added: “Furthermore, it is the sole responsibility of local government authorities to construct and maintain parks, gardens, open spaces or public facilities as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly.”

Both the state government and LASPA however disagree with this view. A statement by Adebayo Haroun, senior special assistant to the commissioner for justice, insists that the parking levy had legal backing while LASPA alluded to the fact that it (LASPA) was a creation of a law validly made by the state house of assembly and therefore could collect the parking levy.

“ The Lagos State Parking Authority Law, 2018, empowers the local government and local council development areas in Lagos State to assign their powers in respect of collection of fees relating to parking to the state government.

“Accordingly, by a mutual agreement, the local government areas and local council development areas in Lagos State have assigned their powers to the state government to collect fees on parking in Lagos State.”

In our view, the controversy is needless. The the law is good but the state government needs to do more clarifications and enlightenment, especially as private streets are not affected. The law should also be further streamlined so as not to create room for overzealous officials who could turn it to another object of terror on the roads. In many countries, meters are erected on roads where such levies are supposed to be paid and people pay accordingly. Lagos also had such system in place some years ago. Violators are issued tickets indicating their fines. This is better than the present situation where people are arrested and have to spend a lot of of productive hours in the offices of law enforcers. Parking, like most other things, is now more of technology and streamlining.

We also want the state government agencies granting building permits to take into consideration the availability of adequate parking space before granting approval for event centres and other public facilities requiring huge vehicular presence, to avoid a situation where their customers constitute a nuisance to other road users by indiscriminate parking of their vehicles.

As for the parking levy, it is only natural that people would object to new ideas, particularly when such policies make them part with their hard-earned money. With time, they would embrace the levy when they begin to feel its impact. Our advice therefore is that its proceeds should be judiciously used for the common good.