In Abuja, vehicles are parked at owners’ risk
In many public places where cars are parked, including malls, markets, hotels and even in places of worship, there is always this inscription boldly written, and mounted at strategic points around the parking areas. It goes thus: ‘Cars are parked at owners’ risk.’
In situations, where such messages are not mounted at strategic points, they are boldly written on surrounding walls, with “shouting” colours.This development has led many to ask, “who does one hold responsible in the event of a car theft, while the owner is still within the perimeter of the property,’ and ‘why is it that owners of such facilities do not want to take responsibility for any mishap that take place within their premises?’
Interestingly, a good number of managers of such property, which The Guardian sought their opinions, appear not to know the import of such inscriptions. In most cases, they put up such signage having seen same on other people’s property.
Even a uniformed security guard at Ceedi Plaza, in the Central Business District of Abuja, said he knew nothing about the inscription, as he was only an employee of the security outfit hired to keep an eye on the facility.
He, however, maintained that inscription or no inscription, a lot of measures were in place to guard against theft or vandalisation of shoppers’ vehicles.
“Here we give tags at entry point, and drivers have to return the tags when they are leaving. There is no way anybody without a tag will be able to drive a car out of this premises. I think that is good enough a check on car theft.’’
He said in addition to this, the entire car park is usually under patrol by security operatives in order to ensure that vandalisation of parked vehicles do not take place.
Tags are not given at the Wuse Market, but receipts are issued upon payment of N100. Motorists are sometimes required to present these receipts before they are allowed to exit the market. This is, however, not done at all times, thereby giving the impression that the exercise is more of revenue generation, as against a security check.
The same scenario plays out at Utako Market and the Garki Modern Market, where security operatives there say they won’t take responsibility for any car theft, even though such has never been recorded.
According to Adamu Bulus, at Wuse Market, “Cars here are parked at owners risk. But on a serious note, it will be suicidal for any thief to try to steal a car here because he would be lynched instantly. One thing you will notice with all these open markets is that they are all fenced round, with one entry and one exit. So, it will be hard for car thieves to operate.’’
Even with warnings that cars are parked at owners’ risks, some organisations still have their parking lots and other strategic areas fitted with close circuit television cameras for enhanced security coverage of their premises.
But what are the legal implications of these inscriptions, and of what benefits are they to the property owners, or vehicle owners?
According to Emmanuel Kanu Oti, a legal practitioner, such notices cleverly exonerate managers and owners of such facilities of any liability in the event of car theft.
His words, “In law it is called caveat emptor. These signs are warnings and ignoring such warnings means that the property owner, or manager will not be liable, if anything goes wrong. If one is lodging in a hotel, then the hotel is responsible for the safety of the lodger and his vehicle/property.
“However, if car theft in a particular place has become a recurring decimal, and there are records of its repeated occurrence, then the management can be held responsible because such reoccurrence will definitely suggest that something more than ordinary is going on.”
Another lawyer who craved anonymity, said notices like ‘Cars are parked at owners’ risk were similar to notices such as, ‘Not for sale’ put on land, or landed property, which are most times are in contention.
He added that anyone who ignores such warnings and goes ahead to invest in such property, will be doing so at his risk, adding that such notices simply constitute an alarm bell, warning unsuspecting motorists/ buyers to beware and be careful.
Agreeing with Oti’, he said overall, these notices simply serve two purposes: that of exonerating the property owner of culpability, as well as, serving as a kind of advice to car owners to provide extra security for their cars.
He also agreed that lodgers in hotels are entitled to compensation in the case of theft, as their circumstances are quite different from those who may suffer theft while casually relaxing in maybe a garden.
A motorist who also spoke on the issue said, in his bid to protect his vehicle against theft in public places, he ensures that he locks his pedals with padlock, as automated ones have proven not to be very effective, since car thieves have found a way around disabling car security systems.
According to him, pedal locks remain the surest way of ensuring that cars are safe from thieves, be it in public car parks or at home. He added that in view of the increasing cases of car theft in public places such as offices, shopping areas and even religious places in Abuja, motorists should ensure added security measures in order to protect their vehicles from car thieves.