With the absence of adequate parking lots in Lagos metropolis, many individuals and corporate bodies are converting open spaces around them to money-spinning ventures
Ever since 23-year-old Muba Adeleke, a vulcanizer at Sandgross market, Lagos Island, left his job to join a group of friends at the Oke-Arin market, also on the Island, whose job is to provide parking spaces for vehicle drivers, he had never looked back. Adeleke earns far more than he was making as a vulcanizer. He used to earn N3,000 daily as a vulcanizer. But as an attendant at the parking lots around the Oke-Arin market, he makes between N5,000 and N7,000 every day, excluding Sundays. So Adeleke earns between N120,000 and N170,000 non-tax revenue monthly. “Although, I cannot say I am a big man, but I can conveniently pay for whatever bills that come my way. I save N2,000 everyday with a local savings operator (esusu) and I eat whatever I want,” Adeleke told the magazine.
Just as Adeleke is making money by helping to park cars for customers who daily throng the market, so also is Sunday Bassey who left his trade as an umbrella repairer to join a gang of boys and men at the Oluwole Market, also on the Island who are involved in the parking lot business. Getting a parking space at the market is as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack and so, providing space for such customers is big business. “Each parking slot costs N300 and sometimes we park up to 500 cars in a day”, says Bassey. This amounts to N150,000 per day. But they say the bulk of the revenue goes to the faceless godfathers who engaged them for the business while they are paid between N8,000 and N10,000 per group.
Folasade Ajibade, a businesswoman, is a regular visitor to the Oluwole Market and she pays N300 each time she requests for parking space. Yet going to the market makes her anxious and that is because aside from struggling to get a space to park her car, she also has to contend with the stench at the parking lot “If you are someone who squirms or cannot withstand foul smell, you cannot park at Oluwole. The space is always littered with faeces, coupled with the stench coming from urine”, she explained.
Bisola Faseun, a trader said that those who own shops in markets on Lagos Island have to get to their shops as early as 6.30am so that they can conveniently park their vehicles. “When our customers come, they find it hard to get parking space. Sometimes we have to bribe the boys to get them space and that is different from the money they also collect from these customers. The fee has gone up from N200 to N300 per vehicle,” she said.
Unlike the Oluwole parking lots, the ones at Marina are well maintained. “That place is well organised, well kept and the park is tarred. Those who also give out ticket there are professionals; they sit in a cubicle to hand out ticket to you and some other persons collect the ticket fee from you,” Ajibade said. Parking vehicles by roads and streets is also a growing business. Because the whole of the Central Business District, CBD, of Lagos Island, which houses some of the headquarters of major corporate bodies in Nigeria and popular markets like Jankara, Sangross, and Balogun, do not have enough parking lots for their staff, visitors and customers, people are made to park along some streets after paying some money to the social miscreants who create spaces for them. These young boys operate along the roads and streets, particularly where there is heavy vehicular traffic.
Kimberly Smith, an American, would not forget in a hurry her encounter with them some time ago. She was invited to attend a public lecture at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Victoria Island, Lagos. She was chauffeur-driven but as she made to alight from the car, some group of young men, numbering about four surrounded the vehicle. “I was scared as I thought we were being mugged. But soon, I got to know that they were miscreants who provide parking space for cars along the street because of the shortage of parking lots inside the institute and its environs. We were asked to pay N500 but my driver bargained with them and they eventually provided us a space for a fee of N200, she said.
Operators of parking lots in and around market places and streets claim they are registered with an unnamed body to which they make daily remittances. These operators said those who register them for the business assure them of protection as they have the backing of the local government officials in their respective areas of operation. However, Kamal Salau-Bashua, chairman, Lagos Island East Local Council Development Area, LCDA, debunked the claim that the touts handling parking spaces at the various markets on the Island are working for the council. “I can say categorically that no official of the council is involved in the parking racketing, because it is illegal. Only those who have the franchise are mandated to run the business,” he stressed. He disclosed that the council has even stopped the activities of its traffic unit as part of measures to curb illegal activities of operatives in the unit, which brings embarrassment to the council.
The parking lot business is not limited to Lagos Island alone as it is carried out in virtually all the local governments, LGs, and LCDAs across the state. With the growing number of vehicles on Lagos roads, available parking lots have become very limited and that is the situation that is being exploited. Parking fees range from between N200 and N500, depending on the area, but the business is largely unregulated. Even with the urban renewal efforts of the state government under its Mega City Project, the issue of parking lots for cars and trucks is not being adequately addressed. As the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria with a population estimated to be about 18 million and millions of vehicles plying the state, the demand for parking spaces in Lagos is high. Even in new areas being developed for residential and commercial purposes, there is no provision for parking lots. Millions of motorists thus face Herculean task trying to get parking spaces. But it appears the state and local governments are yet to consider parking as an essential infrastructure. Experts say without parking lots, vehicle owners will turn the roads being built or renovated into parking spaces thus having to contend with officials of the Lagos State Transport Management Authority, LASTMA, who are always on hand to impound vehicles parked in unauthorised places and released only after the payment of huge fines. Mega cities in other climes have parking lots provided in residential and business areas and they are well administered by the local authorities. But in Lagos and other major cities in the country, the business has been left in the hands of social miscreants who harass motorists regularly over fees.
Corporate organisations have joined the fray such that even hotels no longer offer free parking space for visitors. In the big hotels like Eko Hotels and Towers, Federal Palace and Sheraton, for instance, all visitors, with the exception of their guests, are expected to pay parking fees depending on the number of hours spent. These hotels and many others usually serve as venue for various events, thus attracting heavy vehicular traffic. With the recent developments, all motorists who attend functions in these hotels now have an additional burden to pay parking fees. Many companies and event centres across the state also convert their open spaces to parking lots, thus making additional revenue. The Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, post offices and the state secretariat also provide parking spaces for a fee. A visit to LASUTH with a vehicle attracts a parking fee of N300. Ibraheem Rasheed, who sells ticket at LASUTH, said it guarantees coverage for any parked car for the whole day. He said the hospital is a very highly populated environment, hence much money accrue to the coffers of the management on a daily basis from the parking lot. The various open spaces at the shopping malls situated around the hospitals too, are veritable source of income to their owners who charge N200 parking fee per vehicle. Before the Motorway Management stopped the collection of fees from drivers who use their parking space, it used to charge N100 per vehicle allowed to park in its premises. However, the management had to stop when officials from the Onigbongbo LG wrote to them that they wanted to partner with the Motorway Management on the collection of parking fees.
But some organisations say their decision to charge parking fees is not driven by profit. The management of Ikeja Shopping Mall, Alausa, popularly called Shoprite, for instance, said it introduced an efficient, transparent parking service to maximise efficiency and not to reap profit. The mall is currently being managed by Servest Parking, which has established itself as a market leader in the provision of parking management from consultancy and design through to total end-to-end management. Emeka Ikeanumba, parking manager, Servest Parking, informed the magazine that the equipment and infrastructure newly introduced at the mall were customised to suit the purpose it was meant for – to curb corruption, to provide efficient services that can compete with its peers around the world. According to Ikeanumba, the ticketing infrastructure was recently introduced at the mall after over six months of careful study of the calibre of customers who daily throng the mall. “We are aware that a shopping mall of this grade should provide a decent parking space for its numerous customers. What we have here is customised to suit the purpose and our approach delivers an efficient transparent parking space designed to maximise efficiency.
The parking lot at the mall is well structured and has enough room for vehicular movement. The parking fee ranges from N100 to N500, depending on the number of hours spent at the mall.
The LGs are not left out of the business. At the Ikeja LG, for instance, parking space is provided for N100 per vehicle. Besides, the council officials allegedly contract some individuals who park vehicles along some major streets for a fee and make remittances to the council. On Simbiat Abiola Road (formerly Medical Road), for instance, there are complaints by business owners that miscreant create parking spaces for motorists who are not their customers in front of their shops or businesses, thus blocking the views of prospective customers. The miscreants are, however, unperturbed as they claim they are working for the LG.
The Agege LG is not unaware of the boom in parking space business. But Babatunde Alao, senior special adviser to the executive chairman, Agege LG on park monitoring, said the council has not commercialised the business.
Alao said the only parking space owned by the LG is the one by Agege main market but that the space is being run by private individuals on contract. He explained that the parking space in Agege market is small and so the LG had to liaise with the state ministry of environment to provide additional space. “What we do is that we give it out on contract to people and they make monthly payments to the local government,” he said, adding that the amount is determined by the treasurer of the LG. According to him, the LG is about to enact a law to regulate parking of vehicles, particularly along the streets and roads and that a public hearing has been held last month on the issue. “We are on the verge of enacting a law in the local government. We held a public hearing on it and it is with the councillors now for the community to make their inputs. The bill will also pass through the legal department before the chairman will finally sign it into law,” he said. He said there is no law, for now, prohibiting the conversion of open spaces to parking lots within the LG but that such vehicles must not obstruct the free flow of traffic.
Salau-Bashua said for easy management and accurate keeping of records, his council had contracted out the running of parks within the area through franchise. The parks, categorised into two, are tagged corporate parks and tows. According to him, most of the council’s revenue comes from the yearly fees paid into the council’s coffers by the company handling the franchise. He said the revenue derived from the activity is ploughed into the council for local administration, adding that the council is striving to curb the menace of miscreants and touts who have taken over the business.
When in March, the Lagos State government started enforcing the ‘no official sticker, no entry into the Alausa secretariat’, many of those who do business at the secretariat have to look elsewhere to park their vehicles. Aderemi Ibirogba, commissioner for information, Lagos State, while explaining the rationale behind the decision to allow only vehicles with sticker into the secretariat, said government wants to ensure that only those who have genuine business are allowed into the secretariat. Even then, authentic visitors like contractors and many others are not allowed to park within the secretariat. These visitors turn to the parking lot inside the Alausa mini market to park their vehicles at the rate of N200 per vehicle. The Iyaloja (market leader) of the market said the parking business has the approval of the Ikeja LG and that the money collected is used for the maintenance of the market.
Now convinced that parking lots are now goldmines especially around the secretariat, every available space is now up as money-spinning asset. The compound adjacent to the ministry of physical planning and urban development, as well as the premises of the ministry of environment, has also been converted to commercialised parking lots. Besides the ministry is BIO Park, noted for the planting and supply of plants and flowers. But the management has created space as parking lot, charging its customers a flat rate of N200. Dorcas Bickersleth helps to manage the park. She said aside from providing space for her customers, she also ensures safety of their vehicles. Kingsley Fufeyin, an estate developer, is one of her regular customers. He claims he has been parking his jeep at BIO Park for close to two years. “I started using the park when I realised that parking inside the secretariat is hazardous. Aside from frantically looking for space, the security officials would also make you feel unwanted and would be harassing you, so when a friend introduced me to BIO Park, I fell in love with the place, and ever since, that is my car park any time I come to the secretariat”, he said.
For Yomi Oguntoye, an information technology expert, the presence of parking lot is one indicator of a consciously planned urban environment. A well travelled Nigerian, Oguntoye said parks go with any structure such as houses, office complex as well as roads. He agreed that building the aforementioned structures without creating space for parks, is a job half done, adding that parks are money-spinning ventures, which could create huge revenue for both government and individuals alike, if well managed.
He is right. In other climes, parking is big business. For example in South Africa, the parking industry last year alone contributes about eight per cent to its gross domestic product, GDP, and this figure is predicted to rise this year.
And with the introduction of regulated parking via parking management practices, traffic congestion has reduced by 30 per cent in major parts of South Africa. In the United States, US, over $20 billion was estimated to have been generated in 2011, from well maintained parking lots. Can the authorities in Lagos and other major cities take a cue and regulate the business of parking lots for the benefit of the users and service providers? This is one challenge that must be surmounted if the mega city status is to become a reality.
Additional reports by Helen Eni, Ajibola Ajisafe and Peace Arikpo