“The fact is that the stand-alone multi-level car park is not financially viable because return on investment doesn’t come in short period.”
Federal Capital Territory Administration’s (FCTA) desire to provide solution to the growing traffic and indecent parking in Abuja seems far from being realistic. While developed countries pay serious attention to traffic management in their major cities, little or nothing is done to address the growing traffic in Abuja and other cities in Nigeria.
Some residents suggested that FCTA should use its monopoly of traffic and security institutions to introduce policies that would either give motorists alternative to their cars or provide an efficient intracity transport system that would decongest traffic.
Nonetheless, the administration had tested several policies but some failed for one reason or the other. For instance, the “park and pay” policy was introduced to restore sanity on the Abuja streets but criticisms from motorists pushed a resident to court to demand an end to the policy.
Motorists complained of extortion and fraud by the enforcement officials some of who delight in clamping down on motorists for “flimsy” excuses. There was wide jubilation in Abuja in April 2014, when Justice Peter Affen of the FCT High Court declared the policy illegal. He said the policy lacked legal backing.
However, the FCTA in 2005 secured the approval for the Abuja Investment Company Limited (AICL), to build four multi-level car parks in four strategic places within the city center. This was in anticipation of massive daily inflow of vehicles into Abuja city center and the need to control traffic obstruction.
The proposed projects were to be sited at Garki Area 11 by Abuja Geographical Information Systems (AGIS) and Garki Area 7 by the popular UTC shopping complex. Others were in Garki Area 2 and Gudu District by the market. The contract for the projects were awarded to different contractors to handle based on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) and the responsibility of managing and supervising the projects and other likes were handed over to AICL.
But for one reason or the other, the project sites were abandoned shortly after being awarded. It thus made the sites safe haven for hooligans and other criminally minded persons to operate. Evidences indicated that among the projects contracted out, only the one in Garki Area 7 shopping complex (UTC) witnessed a little touch by the contractor.
The contractors were said to have realized that the contract terms were faulty. In fact, an official of AICL confirmed to Daily Sun that the contractor that ought to handle the Gudu project withdrew long before others left the site. A source said the contractors left because they realized it would be difficult to recoup their investment following the 25 years agreement of build, operate and transfer.
He said: “The initial arrangement with the developers was on a Build Operate Transfer (BOT). It means that each of the contractors will build, operate and run the project for 25 years, after then, the ownership of the project would be transferred to AICL.
“Regarding the Area 7 project, as at the time the contractor left the site, the total money spent was N129,805,731.48. These plots were allocated in 2005 for a multi-level car park through private sector participation. It underwent a process, which resulted in the selection of four companies to handle the projects.
“But as we began the journey, several difficulties set in and none of the contractors could start the project except D&B Limited that was awarded the Garki Area 7 project. The fact is that the stand-alone multi-level car park is not financially viable because return on investment doesn’t come in short period. Banks that ought to finance the project also withdrew due to the fear of recouping their investment.
“Investors look at the best options and go after the one that presents the least risk, shorter time of recovery and higher profit margin. We intend to see how we could commercialize the car park. That is, to introduce some office and shop spaces, so that, apart from the stand-alone multi-level car park, there would be additional space for shops. It would make the project more commercially and financially viable.”
The source said they have explored a number of financing options, especially for Area 7 because of its strategic position in a commercial area and amidst so many buildings: Traders in the complex as well as nearby plazas are worried and have written to find out what was happening. We have politely explained our challenges to them as well as steps we have taken to solve them.”
Meanwhile, a visit to the Area 7 project site confirmed that the site has been taken over by mini printing business operators, while shop owners in the surrounding Lozumba and Noble plazas, as well as the occupants of the Cyprian Ekwensi Art and Culture centre have continued to lament.
Mr. Lekan Olu who runs a bookshop in Lozumba Plaza so many tenants left the plaza because the abandoned project, which is directly opposite the plaza has completely blocked the view of their businesses: “New customers cannot locate us. Even the old ones no longer consider us for patronage. They prefer to go to Commerce Plaza in Garki Area One, for their printing and other related businesses. They attributed it to absence of parking space and other discomfort.”