• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

To help! Uber, Bolt, ride to Lagos

ByElla E. Kidwell

Oct 7, 2022

By Lawrence Enyoghasu

Some Taxi drivers in Lagos have cried out for help as their business’ dwindling fortunes.

They say three factors contributed to their misfortunes. These include the low fees charged by Uber and Bolt drivers, the alleged decision of some Lagos property managers not to allow yellow taxis access to their estates, and the rise in their fees followed by the recent introduction of “Lagos Ride” by Lagos State. government.

They claim that unless something is done urgently by government transport authorities to ease their suffering, they could be out of business sooner rather than later. In the past, they were considered the lord of the manor, the holder of the knife and the yam tuber, when it comes to walks in the city of Lagos. They figured out how much you paid and how far they could go with you. Either you took their prize or you left it. For many passengers, their fees seemed exorbitant and unreasonable. But they cared little about your feeling or your opinion. You had a choice to either pay the fee they gave you or look for other ways to find your way around Lagos.

Nature of change

This is no longer the case. The entry of the Uber service in Lagos in 2014, followed by Bolt two years later in 2016, simply shook up their business. Now, the recent introduction of the Lagos Ride by the Lagos State government has ended up worsening their plight. Hence their call for urgent aid and immediate relief. These men who in the past led the taxi business were mostly government pensioners. They either circled their cars to be painted the yellow color of taxis, which they then put into service, or they used hire-purchase cars to earn a living.

According to John Ademiluwa, Chairman of Good Morning Taxi Park, Alimosho, Lagos, the taxi industry has been primarily affected by the government’s inability or lack of foresight to come up with a ‘development support policy’ for taxi drivers. He said: “I started in 1999. At that time things were better because customers (passengers/customers) used taxis a lot. We used to use the color of Jakande in the past. It’s yellow. When Fashola arrived, he introduced a new taxi system. Things were still going well. There were different taxis in town then introduced by politicians. It included the metro and the blue taxi. But when the competition got tough, some people gave up. Then people came to research our operations. We gladly gave them the information they were looking for. I believe it was this information that gave birth to the Uber and Bolt transportation systems. We weren’t charging as low as they do now. Our problem was compounded by some estate agents who blocked us from entering their areas. Because of this, no one wanted to get into the yellow taxi anymore. I can even say that this decision first affected us before these taxi companies, Uber and Bolt, came to town.

But he insisted their woes were compounded by the introduction of Lagos Ride which he said is even more expensive than the services they, the taxi drivers, offer. He said: “The association and the government are still negotiating.” He informed that although the competition seems to be stiff for him and his ilk with the entry of these three giant taxi companies, “I still have passengers who frequent me. There’s a customer who wouldn’t use Uber until I was free. Still, he said he would refuse to back down from the harsh truth. He confessed: “Business is very bad now. I have to pay a certain amount while supporting my family. The problem we have has been compounded by politicians after their pockets. At my age, if I choose to do business with Lagos Ride, when will I finish paying for a car that costs 7 million naira? The government deceives us because we pay association and individual taxes to the government. But these taxi service companies only pay taxes as a company and not as individual drivers.

Role of government

Adebayo Dopemu, a retired military officer, agreed with Ademiluwa on what he said was a dual role played by the government. He insisted that the government is after its own interest to collect taxes and not after the development of taxi drivers. He was also full of lamentations when he recalled his own experience: “I joined the company after retiring as a soldier. I started working because I didn’t want to stay at home waiting for my pension. One thing I can say is that unlike those other companies, Uber, Bolt and Lagos Ride, there is no security on this job. You provide security yourself. If a passenger approaches me, I’ll have to watch what they say. From there, I would know what kind of person he is before doing business with him.

The government must offer former drivers the opportunity to train new ones. But they are right after the money. Uber drivers are doing well. In fact, a lot of our guys painted their cars and went to join them and it affected our business. But we can’t complain too much; we have our business to run.

Adewale Adenugba from Ekiti State also lamented the low daily income caused by the entry of the three taxi companies. He recounts his own experience: “I started doing this job around 2007. Before that, I worked in an office as a clerk. That was the job available at the time. The unit president also worked with me. When I left, I called him and he introduced me to the job. It was easy for me as I could drive and I knew almost everywhere in Lagos. But now things are not like that anymore.

He too highlighted the security implications of their work. He said that while the drivers of these three taxi companies enjoy a high level of security, the same does not apply to them. In a conversation with Saturday Sun, he explained: “I’ve met different types of people in this job; we cannot call them friends or strangers because they are our customers. There are vouchers and fraudsters among them. There are a lot of people you will drive and they will rob you once you reach your destination. Some would disappear with your money. Many times our drivers have been robbed. The only thing then was that the work was rewarding. There was money to do anything and everything. I was my own master. I started with my car before it broke down later. I have another car on lease. But I haven’t finished paying yet because the business isn’t as lucrative as it used to be. That started to change when Uber and Bolt entered the business. They made most of the passengers. Every time passengers came, we haggled over prices. But now Uber and Bolt have fixed prices, which may seem cheaper than ours. But this is not the case.

Futile attempts to be like Uber, the others

Asked why Uber, Bolt and Lagos Ride’s deep foray into the taxi business in Lagos has not made them question themselves, he said: “The taxi drivers association has tried at the time to get a mega taxi rig. But the problem was the senior officers who were not sincere with us. It was supposed to be a poverty alleviation program. But it is now an addition program to poverty. The government should have given us these vehicles at a very low price. We ran it for a year before it got carried away. We thought they wanted to do us a favor but they were killing us. Then there were new Corolla cars.

Now the Lagos government has brought in another project that has become political. They still do the verification for a year. But still, I think the government is right when they brought in Uber and other taxi companies. They said they did it to remove rickety cars. But they should have made it more flexible for people to join. In other countries, their government collaborates with the already existing taxi association. Uber should have been regulated by an association. If the government were sincere, the Lagos Ride should have competed favorably with other taxi companies. We discussed with our members not to charge high fees because of competition. We have also trained them in customer relations. Since then, we have seen customers who are ready to do business with us. »

The Airport Cab Hire Association of Nigeria (ACHAN) is also sidelined in the Macedonian outcry and call for help in the face of declining activity. Mr Adeniyi Olayinka, crowned a hero some time ago for returning $2,400 to a passenger, confessed he was embittered by the whole development. He said, “We don’t have customers like before. These Uber drivers picked us up. Once someone lands at the airport, local or international, he or she will have already booked a ride from the checkpoint.

We sometimes prevented some from choosing passengers because we had paid the right to do business here. The government collects a special tax from us and we have to protect it. But sometimes these guys would go so far as to pretend that they were looking for their loved ones. Some would put a friend in the taxi just to trick us. I must be sincere with you; business is down. But we still enjoy a certain grace thanks to the good reputation we have acquired over the years and thanks to a good association. This is why some people continue to frequent us.