“Safety Incidents Happen When Passengers Board the Wrong Cars”- Bolt

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Exclusive: Bolt Explains "SOROSOKE" Initiative, Affirms Support for #EndSARS in Response to Allegations
Bolt Nigeria

Taxi-hailing platform, Bolt, says the majority of safety mishaps experienced by its passengers happen because passengers board the wrong cars. This was captured in a recent blog post by the company aimed at reassuring an angry public of users.

There has been a series of backlash over a lack of safety while using Bolt’s service. Users have accused drivers on the platform of various misconducts including harassment, extortion, theft and colluding with the police to intimidate and extort unsuspecting passengers.

https://twitter.com/Elcrucifixio/status/1328758303514615808

While explaining that it has a cutting-edge first of its kind verification portal which is activated from driver registration through to customer support, the ride-hailing company nonetheless insisted that most of the safety problems that happen during rides are because passengers jump into the ‘wrong cars’.

“We have seen that the majority of safety incidents happen when a passenger gets into the wrong car. Please ensure that you’re getting into the right car by making sure your driver’s face and license plate matches what has been verified and shown in the app.”

While this is good advice, one question still lingers; how are there still any ‘wrong cars’ in the system despite the industry-leading verification system in place?

In a chat with Technext, Bolt Regional Manager, Uche Okafor notes that drivers are usually prone to giving their accounts to someone else to hustle with. Thus, the picture of the driver on the app won’t match the face of the driver. Passengers therefore mustn’t board such vehicles.

He also said drivers have been known to give their vehicles to other colleagues who have Bolt accounts. In that situation, the plate number on the car won’t match the one on the request.

Bolt under fire

Over the past couple of months, Bolt has constantly come under fire of Nigerians who narrate their bad experiences during rides. One such incident of a young man running a delivery being led directly into the hands of SARS officials to be extorted and later allegedly robbed by the driver led to the #CancelBolt campaign on Social media.

Nigerians Call for Boycott of Bolt App In Protest Against Driver Harassment, SARS Brutality and Extortion
A Bolt driver watches as his passenger is harassed by SARS officers in Nigeria

An attempt by the company to restore cordiality with the public would end in disaster after its SOROSOKE initiative, aimed at supporting the #EndSARS protest, was attacked by social media users who claim it was used to identify protest supporters for SARS operatives to intimidate.

Addressing these issues, Bolt PR Manager for Africa, Nthabiseng Mokoena stated categorically that neither Bolt nor its drivers collude with any law enforcement agencies to harass or harm any member of the ride-hailing community.

“Bolt drivers or Bolt do not collude with any law enforcement agencies to harass or harm any member of our community. It remains our view that we should stand together against any form of brutality targeted at any member of society.”

Nthabiseng Mokoena, Bolt PR Manager

While this may be so, one might be tempted to ask what investigations the company carried out before concluding that its drivers do not collude with law enforcement.

When Prevention is not Better than Cure

One recurring point of discord is that despite the numerous accusations, Bolt doesn’t seem interested in punishing recalcitrant drivers. Even when complaints have been lodged, the company has been accused of being generally aloof and unresponsive.

Even when it responded, it has sometimes been to threaten the complainant.

Reacting to claims that it doesn’t penalize drivers, Uche Okafor said the company is prohibited from disclosing such issues due to data privacy laws. He, however, indicated that cases of misconduct like the case mentioned previously are handed over to the police for investigation and prosecution.

The above, coupled with its claim of an industry-leading verification system, position Bolt as an organization that believes in prevention, and not necessarily in cure. While this is good in its own way, it runs the risk of not having a system to address incidents of loss or harm when they arise.

This lack of a cure, at least in the eyes of the public, probably explains the continuous backlash and why it seems every of Bolt’s effort to regain public trust holds no meaning to the Nigerian public. Sometimes healing comes before prevention and Bolt needs to show that it is ready to make that happen.


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