Wednesday, October 20, 2021

SPECIAL: Coping with the menace of motor park touts in Abuja

Activities of touts around the Abuja city centre are becoming more brazen, posing threats to commuters and other road users due to their unruly mode of operation.

• September 29, 2021

The glory of every nation is in the serenity of its capital city which is often the first point of contact for visitors, tourists and investors. But there is an ugly trend threatening orderliness in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja.

Motor park touting.

Activities of touts around the Abuja city centre are becoming more brazen, posing threats to commuters and other road users due to their unruly mode of operation.

There have been complaints about how these urchins constitute security threats to residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), especially in many black spots around the city centre.

Peoples Gazette therefore went to town to interview parties on their experiences on the growing menace and how it can be curbed.

Issac Audu, a driver around Nyanya, a northern outskirt of Abuja, explained the roles of touts at the terminal to The Gazette. He stated that touts aid in gathering passengers, clearing traffic at the roadsides and in turn get paid for their services to the drivers. 

Another driver, who simply identified himself as Cosmos, expressed his displeasure at the attitude of touts, saying they harass passengers and even drivers likewise.

Mr Cosmos said touts chase many passengers away from parks due to their aggressive nature. He believes that if touts can be brought under a regulatory body with rules and regulations guiding their activities, it will help restore trust and confidence of commuters who use the road on a daily basis.

A Lyft driver, Paul Solomon, a professional driver for five years, says touts have always caused more harm than good. He recounts how touts harassed him and his passenger “for picking their passenger” to The Gazette.

The ride-hailing driver said he was heavily fined after the touts overpowered and dragged him to their station, threatening to break his windscreen and demobilise his vehicles if he failed to pay.

For Dorothy Ben, who daily commutes via public transport, she gets caught up with lots of harassment from fierce-looking men who station themselves at different parks.

Dorathy

“If they were for a good cause why do they harass ladies too?” She asked The Gazette when asked if they have been of use to her.

Another commuter, Amos Moses, says the touts have made him more self-conscious due to their violent nature, as they have taken laws into their own hands and care less about the life and properties of travellers. 

He alleges that their aggressive behaviour is caused by the illicit drugs they use before embarking on the day’s job and calls on security operatives to raid their hideouts.

But for Mercy Anjide, another commuter, the touts are just trying to make a living for themselves, though she agrees that their mode of operation is largely unpleasant. 

Ms Anjide blames both the government, drivers and commuters for aiding and supporting this menace. 

SBM (Small But Mighty), a tout at Nyanya Park, told The Gazette that he joined Agbero (touting) job to earn a living as white-collar jobs were not forthcoming.

He denies being unruly on the job, maintaining that his duty is just to ensure that vehicles are filled with passengers.

SBM, however, admits that he gets physical when he sees drivers parking illegally by the roadside to pick passengers in a bid to outsmart Agberos and avoid paying them. He argues that the practice is not good for the safety of passengers and other road users. 

He cautioned passengers against being impatient at motor parks, saying those who jump into roadside vehicles often end up in “one chance”.

One chance is the street term for vehicles operated by criminals for the purpose of duping or harming unsuspecting passengers.

SBM told The Gazette in the Hausa language: “Allah ne me kia mutani lafiya”, which literally means “only God takes people to their destination safely.”

Another tout named Fuzzy says he was born into the line of business as his dad was an Agbero and he has been on the street since the age of knowledge. Fuzzy says he is willing to leave the street if he gets a nice paying job. 

Odogwu, a tout in Area 1, says his job on the street pays him more than any corporate job, as it is with this hustle he has been able to train his son to university level. He added that he is passionate about his job, saying it is for the betterment of the commuters. 

When The Gazette reached the FCT transportation department, the officials admitted knowledge of the untoward activities of touts around the territory.

Deputy director of information at the FCT transport secretariat, Ughamadu Ifeanyi, said the office was aware of cases of harassment of motorists and passengers along roads and highways.

He said the government has stepped in to arrest this ugly development, adding that their action is illegal and unapproved by the transportation secretariat. 

Mr Ugahamadu suggested that the touts often work in concert with some unlicensed or even licenced operators, adding that “Henceforth, any licensed operator who allows touts from its company will be sanctioned and his licence revoked”. 

The spokesman said all organised taxi operators know the appropriate terminals in Abuja and the unlicensed taxi operators would soon be confiscated and forced to register under a licensed operator.

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