By December 2, 2019

3 Trucks Packed Full With Seized OPay Bikes In Latest Action Against Bike-Hailing Firms In Lagos

By December 2, 2019

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Barely a week after it was revealed that officials of Lagos State Chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) have succeeded in strong-arming bike-hailing companies operating in Lagos, it seems there’s yet more trouble brewing.

Reports have it that a sizeable number of motorcycles (up to 3 trucks were packed full with bikes) belonging to OPay’s bike-hailing arm, ORide, were today impounded in the Ikeja area of Lagos by officials of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) for reasons that are yet unclear.

This development is coming just days after bike-hailing companies operating in Lagos, including OPay, MAX.ng, and GoKada, were basically intimidated by the mafia-like unions who run road transport in Lagos into paying an unconstitutional levy that seems a lot like permitted extortion.

It feels like “permitted extortion” because of the government of Lagos State not only looked the other way while the unions rained terror on bike-hailing companies in the state for several months but also called it fair game when the unions demanded NGN 500.00 for every bike owned by the firms for every day. The government pretty much gave the unions its blessing.

Anyone can do the math. With these companies owning fleets of well over 1,000 bikes, that sums up to as much as NGN 182 Mn (USD 500 K) in payments to the “mafia” every year. And that’s besides all the many taxes and business-permit fees already paid by those firms to both the Lagos State Government and Federal Government.

And then there’s the talk of a new licensing regime earlier prescribed by the Lagos State government which would see bike-hailing firms pay as much NGN 25 Mn annually in licensing fees. Again, this is separate from all the “legal” taxes and fees already paid by those firms which easily run into millions.

The developments of today saw hundreds of bikes belonging to OPay getting impounded just days after OPay was thought to have agreed to a special arrangement with the transport unions. And it says a lot about the “ease of doing business in Nigeria.” It also gives a rancid taste of how doing business in Nigeria’s capital nerve, Lagos, can be.

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It is not unclear the reason behind the latest bike seizures but some of the theories that have come forth point to more “mafia-like” institutions coming for their own share what they believe is an endless supply of foreign money.

Of course, it’s no secret that bike-hailing startups are well funded and some of them are even owned by foreign nationals. And it appears there’s a warped idea that these “foreign-owned” companies with infinitely deep pockets must “settle the powers that be” before they can go about the Okada business which they have no business entering in the first place.

Another theory that is being talked up as a reason for the bike seizures is that some OPay riders are now “going offline” and plying routes that should be out-of-bounds in the hopes of making more money.

Another story, albeit a tad far-fetched, has it that the bikes do not have the complete required documentation to operate on Lagos roads and some of the riders are guilty of flouting traffic rules.

Whatever be the real reason for today’s bike seizures, one thing is clear: it’s the fact that Lagos is putting out one hell of an ad for the very foreign investors who Lagos wants to attract so badly.

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