Court outlaws Abuja’s Park ‘N’ Pay policy

Ameh Ejekwonyilo

It was jubilation yesterday at the premises of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja as it declared illegal the activities of the Park ‘N’ Pay policy of the FCT administration.
In a landmark judgment that lasted several hours, the court held that though the park and pay policy may be described as an excellent policy, it lacked the backing of the law.

Therefore, the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Peter Affen, abolished the Park ‘N’ Pay policy, describing it as “illegal.”
The plaintiff, Sun Trust Savings and Loans Limited, had sued the minister of the Federal Capital Territory and two others, challenging them on the legality of collecting fees from motorists through the contrversial policy.
The plaintiff, amongst other things, asked the court to determine whether the park and pay policy of the FCT was in pursuant of any act of the National Assembly as provided by the 1999 constitution and whether the defendants can exercise the powers to collect taxes, rates and fees without an Act of the National Assembly.

Upon resolution the plaintiff sought a declaration that the pay and park policy scheme was ultra-vires, illegal and not in pursuant to any Act of the National Assembly, a declaration that the defendants were not constitutionally empowered to collect tax, fees and rate in the FCT without an Act of the National Assembly and an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents and privies from collecting taxes, fees and issuing of parking violation charges.
The plaintiff also sought the refund of N20, 000 collected by the third defendant and another N100 million in exemplary damages.
Justice Affen, in determining the case, said though the first defendant can make laws to collect taxes, fees and rates in the FCT, but the 2005 bye law of the FCT did not contemplate the park and pay scheme rather made provision for park and ride, “which is not being implemented.”

He said the FCT Road Transport Regulation though made elaborate provisions, “but I was not fortunate enough to find the park and pay scheme in the 2005 FCT bye law. What it provided for under Sections 118 and 119 is the Park and Ride scheme. For reasons of clarity, I will state out those provisions in extensor.  Section 118 states that the transport secretary may, from time to time, designate any operational area or zone as a Park and Ride area or route for the purposes of traffic management between 6 am and 6 pm.”

In granting the reliefs sought by the plaintiff, the judge declared the scheme illegal, ultra vires, null and void. He also restrained the first defendant from collecting any taxes, rates and fees from motorists except such is provided for by a valid subsidiary legislation.
“The defendants by themselves, privies, agents, servants or whatsoever name called are hereby restrained from operating Park and Pay scheme save and except the same is provided for or authorised by a valid bye law,” the judge ruled.

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