The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) has alleged that Akwa Ibom State Government complacency in controlling illegal parks has led to the proliferation of such parks across the state.
The union said the relevant government agencies which should help enforce the law against the operations and patronage of such illegal parks seem to actually promote the illegality.
The Chairman of Itam Long Distance Park, Mr Austine Edet said government lacked the political will to stop the activities of touts who operate these illegal parks scattered across the state particularly in Uyo, the state capital.
He explained that they encourage drivers to pick passengers along the way and so neglect the approved government parks built by former Governor, Obong Victor Attah.
He regretted that the five major parks within Uyo metropolis have practically been abandoned for the illegal ones in defiance to the law saying unfortunately there was no enforcement of the said law in the first place
“It is government that is responsible for the illegal parks in the state. When they make laws, it is not just making the laws but enforcing it.
“In the year 2000, the former governor of the state, Obong Victor Attah completed five parks in Uyo metropolis and sent Executive Bill to the State House of Assembly to ensure that nobody stays outside the government approved park to load vehicles.
“The law was Cap 55, Vol. 3 2000. This law was to enable the transport union establish Anti Touting Miscellaneous Offences Task Force so that nobody stays outside the government park to load vehicles,” he said.
Some operators of the government approved parks in Uyo also blamed officials of the Ministry of Transport and Solid Minerals for the proliferation of the illegal parks.
They lamented that the situation has contributed to the lack of passengers at the government parks and is responsible for the ministry’s inability to clamp down on the illegal parks located along Aka, Oron, Abak and Ikot Ekpene roads.
The anonymous sources who preferred not to be mentioned alleged that many of the illegal parks made remittances to senior officials of the ministry who in turn “protect” them by their indifference in regulating the operation of parks in the state.
They called on the state government to come to the aid of drivers and vehicle operators who have been patronizing the government approved motor parks as the activities of the illegal parks was impacting negatively on their business aside the threat to passengers security.
Efforts to reach the Commissioner of Transport and Solid Minerals, Mr Etim Uno, to react to the allegations was unsuccessful even after a letter for a scheduled meeting was sent to the Commissioner, a protocol he consented.
The Akwa Ibom State Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr Oga Ochi, said government frowns at the non usage of the designated motor parks.
Ochi explained that he had met with the State House of Assembly Committee on Works and Transport on the matter, and they had directed the FRSC to work with the relevant agencies of government to get rid of illegal motor parks in the state.
He revealed that plans were already in place to restrict the loading and offloading of passengers to the five recognized parks in Uyo before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the arrangement.
“I had the privilege of addressing the committee in the House of Assembly on the dangers of the existence of illegal parks. I think the committee actually frowned at the existence of those illegal parks and had cause to direct the Federal Road Safety to work along with other agencies of government to ensure those illegal parks are removed from the environment.
“We also have a relationship with the State Ministry of Transport. We started something with them but unfortunately COVID-19 affected some of those activities that we started with them.
“As it is, the prevalence of COVID-19 is still an issue in the country and Akwa Ibom state, because of that the enforcement that would have taken off has not really taken off in the state,” he said.
The Sector Commander said the proliferation of motor parks was not healthy as it posed security challenge to them and other security agencies.
He said it was impossible for them to monitor the influx of people in and out of the state in order to render help where necessary, in cases of accidents or any other emergency because of the lack of passenger manifest from transport operators.
He said the effective use and regulation of passenger manifest by both transporters and the commission would be impossible with illegal motor parks littered across the state. He hoped COVID-19 pandemic would soon abate to pave the way for the earlier planned removal of illegal motor parks in Akwa Ibom.