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Okada First, Uber Next? Uber Drivers Targeted In Latest Government-Backed Transport Shakedown


February 7, 2020

As the government of Nigeria’s and indeed one of Africa’s most prosperous state, Lagos, adopt measures which it claims would make road transport safer and more secure for everyone, it seems drivers of cab-hailing platforms like Uber and Bolt are next in line for a trim.

After seeing a directive which outlawed commercial motorcycles and tricycles — popularly called Okada and Keke respectively — take effect last week, government agents seem to now be beaming their searchlight on Uber drivers.

As gathered by The Guardian, an official of the Lagos State Vehicle Investigation Service (VIS) confirmed that the state has started enforcing necessary laws on the drivers on ride-hailing platforms such as Uber.

True to that, there have been reports of Uber drivers having their vehicles impounded and having to pay significant sums to recover it.

“My car was impounded last week and I was asked to pay NGN 60 K into the government’s account before it could be released to me,” one Moses Ndubuisi, who is an Uber driver, reportedly told The Guardian.

The publication says Ndubuisi was not the only Uber driver whose car was impounded, claiming that there are many others like him.

An official of the Lagos Vehicle Inspection Services told The Guardian that commercial vehicle drivers and those on Uber and other ride-hailing platforms must be certified by the Lagos Drivers’ Institute before they can operate in the state.

It’s hard not to think of this as an attack specifically targeted at ride-hailing platforms because it’s common knowledge that the majority of the thousands commercial buses operating in the state who are under the umbrella of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) have no such documentation and yet face no such harassment.

In addition, drivers on ride-hailing platforms must have hackney permits. This means they have to change their vehicle registration to commercial.

Another official of the VIS claims Uber has also not paid an operator license fee to the state government.

“You need to have what we call operator license, which Uber was supposed to pay to the government,” the official said in a telephone conversation with an Uber driver. The Guardian has a record of that phone conversation. “Uber has no operator license.”

The official of the VIS also insisted that Uber was aware of all the requirements needed by the drivers, including the hackney permit.

According to the report, many of the affected Uber drivers have had to face the music and pay all the stipulated fines by themselves because Uber closed its offices for some days and it has not been easy to get across to anyone. Earlier this week, there were reports of a surge in cab fares on Uber and Bolt as they both seem to be milking the Okada ban situation.

However, Uber’s Head of Communications in West Africa, Efosa Aiyevbomwan, maintains that Uber “continues to work closely with all relevant stakeholders in Lagos to ensure that our operations align with best practices locally and internationally.”

Featured Image Courtesy: Fortune

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