Ride-Hailing Companies Are Clashing With Aggrieved Drivers In Nigeria

By  |  June 7, 2023

Drivers on ride-hailing platforms like Uber, Bolt, and InDriver have embarked on a strike in Nigeria in protest of price adjustments that did not live up to their expectations following a steep jump in the price of petrol. The hike resulted from last week’s controversial decision by the cash-strapped Nigerian government to discontinue a subsidy programme that kept petrol prices in the country significantly lower than international market rates.

The Amalgamated Union Of App-Based Transport Workers Of Nigeria (AUATWON), which represents e-hailing drivers, has ceased operations, pushed for the strike, noting that its members are unimpressed by the response of the ride-hailing companies to the changes in the price of fuel [from NGN 185.00 (~USD 0.40) per litre to NGN 511.00 (~USD 1.11) per litre] that has taken effect in Nigeria since last week. Drivers on the platforms had lamented the situation while awaiting changes from the e-hailing companies.

Following the sudden subsidy withdrawal in Nigeria, ride-hailing and logistics companies in the country, including Bolt and Uber announced an upward review of their fare prices, though these appear only to be marginal increases which fall some way short of the hike at the pump, as petrol price has more than doubled.

“As of 3 June 2023, after an in-depth review of the situation in the country surrounding the increase in fuel price, Uber has updated fares on the app to reflect the changing economic conditions which we believe will help support drivers in increasing their earning opportunities,” Tope Akinwumi, Country Manager, Uber Nigeria, told WT.

While Uber’s top executive in Nigeria refrained from confirming specific figures as of the time of publishing, it has been reported in local publications that its minimum fare has gone from NGN 700.00 (~USD 1.48) to NGN 850.00 (~USD 1.79). The base fare for the Uber service in Nigeria has also increased from NGN 575.00 (~USD 1.21) to NGN 690.00 (~USD 1.45) while the per kilometre fare rose from NGN 106.00 (~USD 0.22) to NGN 130.00 (~USD 0.27), according to reports.

On the other hand, Bolt reviewed its prices based on the location with Nigeria’s major cities—Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt—among the costliest. But the drivers, through the union, immediately protested the increments which they perceived as non-commiserate while threatening further action.

According to a statement from the AUATWON declaring the strike, the fare increases by the app-based companies were between 25 and 30 percent, which is much less than the union’s requests of a 200 percent increase in fares and a 50 percent reduction in commission.

The strike, which began on Wednesday, was also a reaction to the perceived high commissions collected by Uber and Bolt, two of Nigeria’s biggest ride-hailing companies. Akinwumi who leads Uber Nigeria said: “Drivers are at the heart of everything we do and we will continue to work on initiatives and engage with drivers to help make Uber the app of choice for drivers while maintaining an affordable service for riders,” adding that “where price options are made too high there could be a risk of fewer or no requests from riders – meaning fewer or no earning opportunities for drivers.”

The drivers said that because they could no longer perform their jobs in these conditions, they had previously asked that the firms reduce their commissions on the grounds that they did not match industry standard rates. All app-based drivers across the nation were instructed to be prepared to stay off work until their demands are met.

The statement from the AUATWON reads in part, “The union’s technical team is versed with the operation and technicality of ride-hailing companies and on our calculations, any app company can break even charging below five per cent even though the union recommended a flat commission of 10 per cent or 50 per cent off their current commission during our last meeting, as we believe this will help us to cope with maintenance costs, spare parts and various overhead cost and the current fuel increase.

“We can no longer tolerate any act of dictatorial practices by any app company because we are workers and as an organised union, we have written several letters to these companies for a round table discussion where we can look at various areas of concern and dialogue but they have remained adamant with a deliberate intention to avoid responsibility.

“So, as a result of this insensitivity, the union is directing all its members across the nation to shut down their service on all ride-hailing applications from Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in protest against every dictatorial practice and lack of concern for welfare and security of App-Based Transport workers of Nigeria.

“This is a solidarity step we must take together to protect our investment as fleet managers, secure our business as workers, and secure our job as app drivers.”

UPDATE: Ride-hailing drivers in Nigeria returned to work on Monday, June 12, after the strike action undertaken in the previous week while their demands remain only partially met, signalling a compromise as opposed to facing totally disabled earning prospects.

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