#DrivenBySafety Campaign Backlash: Bolt Explains its Intentions, Efforts

Bolt Xl ride now available in Lagos
New service alert – Bolt XL

Over the last couple of months, e-Hailing company, Bolt has found itself under constant fire on social media. The allegations range from the unruliness of its drivers who allegedly go as far as harassing female riders to conniving with the notorious SARS unit to intimidate and extort unsuspecting passengers.

During the #EndSARS protest, Bolt was under fire for its SOROSOKE discount.

According to social media users, the initiative, which aims to support the EndSARS protesters with a 50% discount on rides, was indeed used to identify supporters of the protests for SARS operatives.

The #DrivenBySafety campaign and its backlash

On September 17 the ride-hailing company once again was sieged by aggrieved Nigerians following the launch of its #DrivenBySafety campaign. The social media effort largely promoted by influencers was attacked on the grounds that it was an attempt to avoid the root of the problem, choosing instead to invest in a cosmetic approach.

For instance, Hack sultan on Twitter said:

“Bolt has shown they’re more interested in hiding the problems than fixing it. Which is funny because they’re spending more money hiding it, so it’s not about making money from this angle, it’s about not wanting to accept and take responsibility,”

Hack Sultan on Twitter

In a conversation with Technext, Bolt Regional Manager for West Africa, Uche Okafor, while confirming that the company sanctioned the campaign clarified that it wasn’t exactly a response to the grievances of the public but a campaign designed to make people more safety conscious as we approach the end of the year.

“This is the end of the year or the ‘ember’ months as we call it. It is usually a risky time of the year with lots of safety concerns arising. The campaign wants to make people aware of and more safety conscious. And part of that is to tell them how much we have invested in safety in the past few months and how Bolt is a safer travel option now,”

– Bolt Regional Manager for West Africa, Uche Okafor

He also said the campaign was billed to have started earlier but due to the #EndSARS protest, it had to be postponed.

Bolt’s #DrivenBySafety campaign, very much like its predecessor, the Sorosoke campaign, has ended abruptly. While this may not necessarily mean those campaigns were launched with bad intentions, it definitely means there’s a deficit of public faith.

This lack of faith stems from the recurring complaints that the company is failing to address the actual claims of misconduct and harassment during trips made by several members of the public.

That the company is dishing out solutions without actually engaging and resolving these claims.

The Regional Director puts it all down to perception, insisting that the company’s intention has been grossly misconstrued all the way. Nonetheless, they had to recall the influencers and ask them to discontinue the campaign because they didn’t want to come across as insensitive.

“We took a step back and asked the influencers to stand down,” he said. “We did this to listen to the people. We are actually glad that people are speaking up about their experiences as this would help us serve them better. Our team is made up of young Nigerians and we are not detached from these realities.”

Bolt is taking actions

Uche insists that the ride-hailing company has taken a lot of disciplinary measures both within the company and outside with law-enforcement agencies.

He, however, said the company is handicapped by international privacy laws and as such can’t divulge specific information.

“I think we missed an opening to actually communicate with the public and that’s on us. However, we have a stringent disciplinary process. Drivers lose access to their accounts when they don’t deliver optimum service. We also have a highly specialized team made up of legal and customer support professionals who handle these disciplinary processes. This team forwards the more serious cases to the police for investigation and prosecution.”

Uche Okafor

He noted that drivers under investigation are suspended pending the conclusion of investigations while guilty drivers generally lose their licenses.

The taxi-hailing company said it is putting measures in place to guarantee safety in the future. It has a fully bespoke biometric verification system for drivers.

“We would also be embarking on statewide retraining of drivers and increase minimum quality benchmark to optimize that threshold for improved passenger experience,” Uche said.

Going Forward

It is one thing to understand the concerns and to develop safety solutions for the future. It is completely a different thing to get an aggrieved people to look beyond their unresolved grievances to see those solutions.

This probably explains why every of Bolt’s attempt to put itself in a good light in the eyes of the public has proved futile.

There probably needs to find healing for some and closure for others. Complainants need to see and know that justice has been served (on their behalf) before trust can be invested.

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

The fact that new cases keep rising by the day. This makes it difficult for people to believe the company is actually doing much to turn the situation around.

One can only hope that the taxi-hailing company finds a way to show the Nigerian public the positive effects of its solutions. Otherwise, the campaigns will cause more harms than good.


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