The notorious Area Boys (it translates loosely to human meters for car parks management). The use of area boys in most car parks around Lagos is now growing and residents and visitors in major parts of the city are requesting the authorities for tough and extensive enforcement to eliminate this illegal practise.
Most car park owners including some local government authorities in Lagos employ the services of the so called area boys to collect parking revenues from motorists that utilises parking facilities at their car parks.
The car park owners cannot afford high cost of parking equipment installation coupled with epileptic power supply in Nigeria. The Car Parks Owners believe employing the services of the area boys is the cheapest alternatives to high cost of equipment and having to have standby electric generators to provide electricity for the parking equipment, coupled with paying annual maintenance costs.
During our recent checks and investigations, we found out that:
Motorists are obviously upset with the increasingly rampant extortion at public places and are worried about the safety of their vehicles if they do not pay these unscrupulous people.
The Area Boys are seen all over the places in the capital city, at the major shopping areas such as Tinubu Square, Broad Streets, Lagos Island, Obalende, Falomo, Surulere, Ojuelegba, IKeja Airport Road, parts of VI and at most popular eating places.
They operate both during the day and at night, depending on the area, demanding a fee from motorists who park their vehicles around the shopping areas and eating places. Our team conducted random checks at several public places in the city and discovered that the area boys were openly collecting parking charges from motorists even on public roads.
The checks show that the area boys menace is widespread in the city, especially at areas such as mentioned above and other popular public places. Most of the area boys station themselves at the public parking bays after office hours and solicit money from the motorists. Some say they act on behalf of their local government authorities.
Their charges vary from place to place, the lowest being N200 ($1.25) and the highest N500 ($3.15).
Our team had several personal encounters with several area boys who appeared to be uncompromising with their demands.
At one such encounter at Marina, the area boys demanded N200 for 30mins for parking along a backlane which is not even a legal parking area. Asked why the team should pay for parking at a public lane, he said that everyone had to pay them for parking in the area and there was no exception.
The area boys walked away after our team insisted on refusing to pay him and inform them we are conducting some surveys and investigations. As he moved on, he said, "It's up to you, you can pay if you wish to," obviously a veiled threat that the team's vehicle might not be safe.
The area boys then walked away and continued collecting money from other motorists. A motorist who identified himself only as Mr. Ademola said that he was forced to pay to the area boys as he feared that his car would be scratched or damaged if he did not pay them.
Mr. Ademola said that he had some bad experiences with the area boys who deliberately scratched his vehicle after he refused to pay them. "I rather pay them the N200 or N500 than having my car damaged," He told us when met we at the entrance of First Bank, Marina Lagos.
A resident named undisclosed from Ikorodu (which is another local government area of Lagos State), who works in Marina said that the area boys had punctured his car tyres after he refused to pay them. According to him, there are about 10 area boys operating around the area and they go around collecting parking fees during lunch hours. He said the area boys were mostly school drop outs, drug addicts and unemployed persons trying to extort cash from motorists who were worried about the safety of their vehicles.
Dele, who works at Mr Biggs (eatery place) in Mr Biggs around Adeniran Ogunsanya area of Surulere local government, said some of the area boys were well attired and neat. He had often seen them splitting their collections before going for tea and lunch breaks. "They act like executives as they do not show up under the heat of the sun or rain," he said.
Another motorist from Adeniran Ogunsaya area said he was furious that these people were operating openly during the day at public car parks. He said they even collected money for vehicles parked by acting as human meters in parking lots.
Upon our visits to Lagos Island and Surulere Local Government offices, no one was available to speak to us on the matter.
We gathered from an inside source upon contacting the Police Authority in Lagos State that The Lagos State Police Commissioner, Yakubu Alkali, have promised another set of enforcement raids against the area boys.
According to information obtained, last year, the police rounded up 412 suspects in Lagos State, it nabbed 242 of them and about 87 were eventually jailed after been charged to court under National Road Transport Act of 1990.
The police urged the public to cooperate with the authorities by abstaining from paying this so called area boys. He also emphasised that local government authorities and car park owners should award car park management contracts to professional companies who can provide a better service instead of using the services of area boys.
He said that as the authorities took tough action to get rid of the area boys, the motorists must co-operate and play their part by not giving in to their demands. The police authority in Lagos State also commends Lagos State Governor, His Excellency Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, (SAN) for giving them the instruments and the backing in tackling crimes in the State which is why it’s the safest in the country.
Credit: V-Park’s Team (July 2011)
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