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Abuja: Rescuing Capital city from car marts

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AFP PHOTO / Andrew YATES

Daily, the number of motor vehicles put on display for prospective buyers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) keeps swelling.

In fact, these vehicles, which usually have inscriptions like “for sale,” or “buy me,’’ are sometimes indiscriminately parked on major streets, where they contribute to traffic snarls in Abuja metropolis.

Apart from these indiscriminately parked vehicles detracting from the aesthetics of the city centre, there have been allegations that criminals also use this medium to dispose of stolen cars at give away prices.

The practice, which runs contrary to Abuja environmental laws, is thriving in all the six area councils of Abaji, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Abuja Municipal, Kwali, and Bwari, despite efforts to put a stop to it.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed that no fewer than 50 vehicles on display for sale are impounded by the Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS) weekly, in the territory, while culprits are made to pay huge fines before impounded vehicles are released.

One of those, who learnt the hard way, is Mr. Innocent Abeh, who was made to pay over N60, 000 before he could recover his cars from the DRTS, last year.

According to Abeh, whose vehicles were impounded in the Utako area of the city: “To be frank, I never knew the processes involved before now. However, I am now well informed, but I am appealing to the authorities to increase awareness campaigns so that other people would be fully aware of the processes involved because sanitising the move will help discourage car theft and sundry challenges.”

Head, Public Relations and Enlightenment of the Directorate of Road Traffic Services, Mr. Kalu Emetu, who spoke on the development said the raid on perpetrators of this act would remain a continuous exercise to drive criminals, and lawbreakers away from the territory.

Emetu said: “Yes the clampdown is part of enforcement that the directorate is mandated to carry out, the reason is that we give license to car dealers and we can’t fold our arms and allow everybody to go into such a business without proper registration. Remember that the FCT traffic regulations empower the directorate also known as “Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) to license people that show interest in becoming car dealers, and when they are licensed, it behooves on the directorate to ensure that they don’t lose it. So, when we frown at people parking vehicles marked “buy me,” or “for sale” along the streets, we are doing so to avert clear-cut abuse of process.”

He said that for anyone to go into cars sales in the FCT, such a person must follow due process by making proper documentation at their Jabi office, pay about N50, 000 for a renewable license, and thereafter obtain a dealership number, which every vehicle that the dealer sells must carry.

“So, we are telling interested car dealers and sellers that they must go through this right process. However, if anyone wants to sell a used car, which he/she is tired of, then the option is for such a person to go through a registered car dealer, who must strictly adhere to regulations approved by the directorate.”

Emetu, who said the government in its wisdom has designated specific areas in every part of the city for the sale of vehicles, frowned at the use of residential houses or front of shops as car marts, stressing that such was strictly unacceptable. “When this happens, the directorate has no other option, but to impound vehicles so displayed for contravention of the environment law since the territory is bent on ensuring good and robust environmental sanitation, avoiding a chaotic society, ensuring adequate security where criminals will find it difficult to thrive, all of which are geared towards obedience to constituted authority.”

He added that it is very important for proposed car dealers to be registered with the vehicle dealers association because it makes it easier for government to deal with such association in times of crisis, rather than dealing with individuals even though it may not be compulsory.

On claims that the directorate was being goaded by the Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria (AMDON) to arrest unregistered car sellers, he insisted that the directorate only considers the interest of the larger society, and not that of an individual, or group.

“As I mentioned above, these claims are not true because we are guided by the law. Sometimes we use mobile courts to determine the fee that illegal car dealers are to pay when they are arrested. This will tell you that the government cannot be influenced by anyone. However, we relate with AMDON because they are our stakeholders. We also advice them to do the right things, be informed that the directorate is a parastatal in the Transport Secretariat, and the secretariat is answerable to the office of the Minister of the FCT. Now, in this chain of command, no officer goes out there to misbehave because there are consequences.”

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) FCT Command, Anjuguri Manzah, said the command was not in any way connected with the clamping down because it was purely the duty of the FCT VIO.”

The National President of AMDON, Prince Ajibade Adedoyin told The Guardian that his association had no objections to the job that the VIO was doing in Abuja, adding that they need to be encouraged to do more in order to sanitise the business.

“In every business or practice, there are processes that must be followed and if the processes are ignored, then the practice itself becomes illegal. Looking at the issue of random sales of cars from the perspective of insecurity in the land, you will agree with me that no government will stand aloof and see the society degenerate to lawlessness. So, you can see that the government is doing the right thing.”

According to him, most members of the association were in the city centre before they were relocated to the outskirts of the metropolis. Presently, they are selling their vehicles along the Abuja-Kubwa-Kaduna highways pending formal relocation to an approved automobile villa at Tungar Maje, near Dei Dei. So, you can see that most of our members are along this axis. Now, if I may ask, can I claim to be a journalist and succeed without formal training and working with a media house? This is quite impossible. So, if those who are not members of our association just wake up and place vehicles at different corners in the city centre for sale, then it means laws are being broken with impunity. This is the main reason that we are standing by the government to go all out to impound such vehicles so as to serve as deterrent to others.

“Those who are interested in selling cars in Abuja must go and register their companies with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), register with the VIO to get an operating license before coming to our association for registration with our association. The idea behind all of these is to ensure safety, sanitise our business environment, as well as ensure obedience to constituted authorities.”


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