The Federal Capital Territory Administration's (FCTA) Transport Secretariat recently released guidelines for Passenger Service Vehicles (PSVs) operating within the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. FCTA's Transport Secretary Kayode Opeifa said after meeting with all licensed taxi operators in the territory that commercial vehicles including high capacity buses, minibuses, taxis, tricycles and motorcycles must all carry red number plates.
Opeifa said, "All Passenger Service Vehicles must be registered in Abuja and must carry FCT number plate with effect from October 1, 2018." He also said that all taxis operating within the FCT must be air-conditioned on or before October 1, 2018 and all commercial vehicles would be required to carry two valid certificate of roadworthiness from the FCT's Computerized Roadworthy Test Center, issued with 9-months validity.
Opeifa said in addition that drivers of all commercial vehicles must be in possession of a valid driver's license and must be certified by the Transport Secretariat in line with relevant FCT regulations. He added that owners of PSVs must show evidence of tax payment in the FCT. He said taxis with Operator's License would be allowed to operate in any part of the FCT including estates, hotels and government establishments.
One significant benefit of these policy guidelines is the revenue that will accrue to FCTA when the guidelines become fully operational. For instance, the acquisition of red number plates by all categories of commercial vehicle owners, the roadworthiness certificate, payment of tax to FCTA by owners of PSVs as well as the requirement that all commercial vehicles must be registered in Abuja are meant to boost FCTA's revenue drive.
The reform guidelines that gladden FCT residents' hearts are those that seek to check lawlessness and recklessness among commercial vehicle drivers. Abuja residents will heave a sigh of relief when the picking and dropping of passengers by taxi and commercial bus drivers are properly regulated. The tricycle operational guidelines should bring sanity to vehicular traffic on Abuja roads. Opeifa said "tricycles are to operate only at the designated routes as approved and assigned to a particular operator by FCT Transport Secretariat. Tricycles and motorcycles are to be operated only by riders with valid FCTA-issued Riders Card."
The issuance of Operator's License has also been suspended till further notice, Opeifa said. He also ordered that existing operators are not to admit or register any new commercial vehicles into their fleet. According to the directive, all registered corporate operators are to provide the secretariat with a list of all vehicles operating under its corporate name on or before Friday April 13, 2018 for ease of administration, roadworthiness, inspection, safety and security purposes. He therefore advised operators of PSVs in the FCT to visit the nearest Department of Road Traffic Service [DRTS] office for documentation and certification.
While we commend FCTA for its deliberate efforts at sanitizing and regulating road transport system in the FCT, we consider the policy which gives owners of taxis up till October 1, 2018 to install functional air-conditioners in their vehicles a needless policy for now. It sounds ridiculous to compel owners of taxi cabs to provide air-conditioners in their vehicles when many of such cars operate with expired tyres, faulty brake systems, tattered seats, broken wipers and one or no headlamps.
Passengers would prefer to arrive safely at their destinations in hot taxi cabs than to board air-conditioned taxis that do not guarantee passengers' safety. Besides, the "one-chance" robbery associated with boarding taxis in the FCT is a more disturbing challenge to Abuja residents than the lack of air conditioners in their taxis.
The deadline for implementing some of the guidelines including the air-condition policy is too short especially for non-corporate operators. Obtaining two valid certificates of roadworthiness and evidence of payment of tax in the FCT are some bureaucratic bottlenecks that can also induce corruption because owners of PSVs would want to cut corners to meet up with all the requirements for certification. We urge the FCT Transport Secretariat to realistically reappraise these guidelines.