e-Hailing Drivers Union Begin Week-long Boycott of Uber and Bolt Apps in Protest Against New Lagos Regulation

Uber Drivers March on Lagos VIS Office to Protest Harassment and Clamp Down on Operations
Uber Drivers March on Lagos VIS Office to Protest Harassment and Clamp Down on Operations

After months of speculation and series of stakeholders meetings, the Lagos government finally concluded plans to regulate the state’s e-Hailing sector. But the new policy hasn’t gone down well with one important group of stakeholders; the drivers. And the reason, according to the National Union of Professional App-based Workers (NUPABW) is simple; they weren’t factored into the new regulation.

To this end, the union has declared a boycott of Bolt and Uber services starting on Monday, August 31. The boycott is aimed at forcing the state government to postpone its enforcement of the new e-hailing regulation until it has been reviewed to include the welfare of the driver-partners.

Recall that Technext first reported the finalization and proposed implementation plan of the e-hailing regulation. In that same report, we highlighted the drivers’ grievances, majorly centred around the nature of the policy which according to them, was more exploitative than regulative.

A cursory look at the regulatory document itself revealed licensing fees of up to N25 million for e-hailing companies as well as annual renewal fees of up to N10 million. There is also a 10% service charge for every ride on the apps.

While there are provisions like waiting areas for e-hailing vehicles, there was absolutely nothing in terms of pricing mechanism which would have prevented Uber and Bolt from arbitrarily reviewing fares downwards for the sake of competition to the detriment of the drivers.

Even though the Lagos government would later reduce the licensing fees by 20% which means a maximum of N20 million while also reducing the service charge (now called road improvement fund), the drivers are still not happy about it, thus the call for a boycott.

Fake representatives and other grievances

In a letter by the National Union of Professional App-based Workers (NUPABW) obtained by Technext and reportedly delivered to the Lagos state government, the driver-partners listed 7 points of discord which must be addressed before the regulation would be accepted.

One of the major grievances was their non-participation at the stakeholders parley held to ratify the new regulation. According to them, the so-called representative at the parley was a fake representative smuggled in by a ‘highly placed political official’.

“Certain highly placed political official within the Ministry of Transportation single-handedly smuggled the so-called representative of drivers’ association into the last meeting with the Governor.”

NUPABW

According to the union, the said political official is bent on ‘sponsoring division among drivers for selfish reasons’. The union warned that the said official would be exposed in due course unless they stopped their divisive acts.

The NUPABW also accused the state government of being insensitive about the plight and interest of the workers while formulating the regulation. It also described as laughable the clause of obtaining LASRRA permit before engaging in driving as it is unknown in the Nigerian law.

The drivers also reject the N20 Road Improvement Fund levied per trip, insisting it was an extortionist agenda targeting them. In summary, the driver-partners rejected the new regulation in its entirety as it is believed to have been reached in bad faith.

Drivers Demands…

The driver-partners under the aegis of the National Union of Professional App-based Workers (NUPABW) have made demands which they believe ought to be included in the regulation to make it more acceptable, especially to them.

First, the drivers have demanded the removal of the multiple requirements and fees levied on them. According to the union, drivers cannot be going for roadworthiness and app company inspection at the same time as the financial burden will be too much for them to bear.

Comrade Ibrahim Ayoade, President of NUPABW

The union also demanded that a threshold be set for the maximum number of cars each e-hailing company can deploy per year. This, the union expects will serve the dual purpose of protecting drivers and help in decongesting the roads. It also demanded that issues of drivers welfare including Price review, Insurance, pension and security must be included in the regulation. For pricing, the drivers propose a minimum fare of N1,000.

LASRRA must also be removed as a requirement for drivers as Nigerians have a right to live and work anywhere in Nigeria. To this end, the union recommended verification of riders identity with BVN and other Biometric means. This, the union thinks will prevent hoodlums from using the apps and by extension, their services to perpetuate their nefarious activities.

Finally, the union proposed a reduction of percentage or commission from the apps companies which has further enslaved the drivers. The union said the commissions should be subject to review every year for benefit of all parties.

Weighing the drivers demands….

The demand to place a cap on the number of vehicles allowed by an e-hailing company seems to defeat the purpose of gig working itself as it is a sector that ought to be open to individuals who are able to indulge in it. But the President of NUPABW, Comrade Ibrahim Ayoade said it doesn’t defeat the nature of gig economy.

While admitting that gig work is a free sector, he, however, argued that its activities are regulated worldwide for safety, welfare and security of the citizens who indulge in it.

“This is what Uber did in New York, they put a cap to regulate incomes of drivers and decongest the roads,” Comrade Ibrahim said. “There must be a window for new vehicles to come in. Gig work and gig economy haven’t been defined very well throughout the world we need to consider that people invested millions to buy those vehicles and need to recoup their investments.”

Asked whether the NUPABW recommendation for passengers to be verified with BVN isn’t a bit too extreme and anti-business considering the nature of BVN and people’s reluctance to reveal theirs, the comrade said it isn’t exactly something new.

“The riders input card trips and they have that information. However, they should make it more workable for better service and customer relationships,” he said. He further said this is because many riders don’t input their real names but prefer to use nicknames.

With the accusation by the NUPABW that a government official is trying to divide the drivers, the president was reminded of the many divisions already among the drivers and asked if the drivers indeed need an external factor to divide them.

Comrade Ayoade admitted there were numerous divisions among the drivers but insisted the NUPABW is in talks with the admins of various driver groups to see reason and join forces with the union in its agitation for better service.

“We only demand the welfare of every driver whether they register with the union or not. It is our responsibility to protect App-Based Workers in Lagos State and Nigeria.”

Quizzed on how long the union intends to sustain this boycott, he replied that the boycott would be on for one week at least. Asked what the union plans to do if the government ignores its requests and boycott and goes ahead with the planned implementation, he said his union is prepared to slog it out with the government in court.


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