Ride-hailing platform, Bolt has denied allegations by certain persons on social media that it is conniving with SARS officers to abduct #EndSARS protesters.
Bolt has explicitly refuted claims suggesting that it is permitting drivers to take riders going for #EndSARS protests to police stations instead.
One twitter user, Jodela claimed that her friend in Lagos booked a Bolt ride from Ikeja to Agege but the driver reportedly drove her to a police station at Alimosho. Some other social media users have accused the e-hailing platform of allegedly using its 50% “SOROSOKE” discount as a means to lure #EndSARS protesters and hand them over to the Police.
Recall that the #EndSARS campaign was reignited last week by a video clip showing how a rider was harassed by SARS operatives. Due to the Bolt driver’s suspected involvement, people claimed Bolt was enabling SARS violence and have been calling for a boycott of its app.
Bolt responded by explaining that it was not liable for drivers’ conduct, as its drivers are classified as independent contractors.
As at the time of this writing, no picture, audio or video evidence has surfaced to support these accusations. However, in the article cited above, a Bolt driver had told Technext that it is ‘highly possible’ that some drivers actually collude with SARS officers.
“This driving is gig work and some drivers are also policemen who want to make extra money. So you can imagine if your driver is a policeman, what that could easily mean,” he said.
The accusations against Bolt are centred around its drivers reportedly aiding and abetting SARS operatives to assault riders.
Sanctioning Complicit Drivers
While refuting recent allegations, Bolt has stated that it will take action against drivers who are colluding with rogue Policemen to assault and intimidate riders.
The taxi-hailing service has categorically asked people to report any case of drivers’ complicity with rogue officers and says such drivers will be sanctioned.
Although many people on social media have recently complained about Bolt drivers enabling Police violence, Bolt has never provided proof that any drivers previously found guilty have been penalised for previous infractions.
Until Bolt actually sanctions complicit drivers, riders won’t be wrong to feel the taxi-hailing platform is only paying lip service to their several complaints.
Bolt Not Thoroughly Vetting Drivers
Almost anyone can become a Bolt driver in Nigeria as the platform does not totally investigate drivers to determine their suitability to the role.
Although the platform has introduced an identity verification for drivers, it only confirms the driver’s identity with respect to picture, address, vehicle ownership. Bolt does not check for the drivers’ medical records and criminal history.
Bolt’s biggest competitor, Uber conducts a thorough check on driver partners’ driving record and criminal history to make sure that riders are safe. Medical assessments are also carried out on drivers to ensure that they are physically fit and mentally stable.
By not carrying out these checks, it is possible that a number of Bolt drivers have a history of violence or medical conditions that may put riders at risk.
Perhaps Bolt isn’t checking for drivers’ criminal and medical history because they are termed independent contractors. However, Uber drivers are also independent contractors but still go through these checks before obtaining authorisation to be hosted on the company’s platform.
App Security Concerns for Bolt Riders
The biggest security concern for Bolt riders is the ride-hailing platform’s inability to track drivers. This means that if a Bolt driver deliberately veers off course during a trip, Bolt is unable to trace the location of both driver and rider.
In a situation where a Bolt rider is harassed or extorted, there is no way Bolt can ascertain the address where the car is stationed to inform emergency services or rescue teams.
Such rider will therefore be at the mercy of the driver. Bolt’s liability terms does state that Bolt, its representatives, directors and employees are not liable for any loss or damage a passenger incurs as a result of using Bolt services. But riders’ safety should be considered a top priority for the ride-hailing company.
Unlike Bolt, Uber’s app is designed to collect Global Positioning System (GPS) data during trips. The data is constantly collected and relayed to Uber’s servers for processing and storage.
GPS systems are also fitted in the cars to track the vehicles. Uber can therefore track drivers’ location for every trip which provides greater security for riders.
Due to the various accusations levelled against Bolt, calls have been made by Bolt riders on social media asking people to boycott its app. The ride-hailing platform has received negative publicity in the past week due to drivers’ conduct.
Speaking on the situation, President of the National Union of App-based Workers (NUPABW), Comrade Ibrahim Ayoade hadd told Technext in a previous article that the police have targeted Bolt riders because they believe most Yahoo boys use the e-hailing service.
Despite the public backlash, Bolt maintains its stance that it is not in anyway supporting or backing drivers to enable Police violence in Nigeria.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!