In March 2020, Technext broke the news that the Lagos government was finally ready to regulate the ride-hailing space in the state. This followed a statewide crackdown of cars suspected to be operated by driver-partners of the hailing companies, notably Uber and Bolt.
Before then, precisely in February, the state government had hounded bike-hailing companies out of the state. The government cited safety and security concerns, claiming that bikes were responsible for the rising rate of criminality and accidents in the states.
It wasn’t until August 2020 before the government finally completed its regulatory document for the ride-hailing space.
In a meeting reportedly attended by representatives of the ride-hailing companies operating in the state as well as driver unions and the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the government obtained approval for the document to be binding and began implementation.
The Lagos ride-hailing regulation
Based on the information we obtained, below is a list of the major requirements of the ride-hailing regulation for companies include:
- A provisional operational licence to be obtained with N8 million for companies with less than 1,000 vehicles and N20 million for companies with more than 1,000 vehicles (Revised)
- Licence to be renewed annually with N5 million for companies with less than 1,000 vehicles and N10 million for companies with more than 1,000.
- Companies must pay N20 of all commissions they receive to the government as Road Improvement Fund
- The annual licence renewal process must be commenced 3 months before the expiration of the old one
- Provision of a comprehensive insurance package for drivers and passengers
There was a separate list of requirements for the drivers which include:
- Obtaining a LASDRI (Lagos State Drivers Institute) card
- Obtaining a driver’s badge issued by the Department of Public Transport and Commuter Services of the state’s Ministry of Transport
- All vehicles must not be more than 3 years old and must be inspected and approved for taxi use under the Road Traffic Law and Special Taxi Cab Inspection Protocol
- A laminated card frame that contains the driver’s name and other forms of identification must be affixed in front of the passenger
- A taxicab must be equipped with a government-approved taximeter
- Drivers must bring taxicabs for inspection once every year.
When the document was eventually released and scheduled for implementation, the President of the National Union of Professional App-based Transport Workers (NUPA-BTW) and Director of the International Alliance of App-based Transport Workers (IAATW), Comrade Ibrahim Ayoade described it as exploitation rather than regulation.
One year later, has this proven to be true or false?
Beyond receiving payment for licencing the ride-hailing companies (and there’s no evidence in the public space that the companies haven’t complied with this provision), the state government appears to be generally less concerned about other provisions of the regulation.
Take for instance an easily overlooked provision in Section 3.13 which says the state’s ministry of transport would provide taxi stands on highways and streets for the “exclusive use” of taxi cabs waiting for passengers.
It shall be the duty of the Ministry to create as many taxi stands as possible and needed and/or work in partnership with taxi franchises to create taxi parks in order to eliminate cruising and to permit wherever it does not interfere with traffic, the space adjacent to railways and elevated entrance, public offices, shopping malls, markets and exits to be used as taxi stands in accordance with the State Urban and Regional Planning LawsGuidelines for on-line hailing business operation of taxi in Lagos state
Not only has the government not provided this, but it also has not made any pronouncement to make traditional yellow taxi park operators welcome Uber and Bolt drivers to their parks without taxing them.
In fact, that provision appears to have distinctly shown the government’s understanding (or lack of it) of the concept and the workings of the e-hailing system.
By its very nature, e-hailing does not require special parks for taxis to wait for passengers because it is their responsibility to meet the passengers exactly at their ports of call and take them exactly to their destinations. The objective of hailing online is to avoid going to a parking lot or street corner in the first place.
That provision, which is one of the few things the government was giving back in return for a regulated space, failed to address some core problems for the drivers. For instance, there’s no real drive to regulate prices to favour the companies, drivers and of course the passengers.
There is also no provision for emergency situations for drivers who may require medical assistance after been attacked by armed robbers in the line of duty, or involved in an accident.
I reached out to the Director of Transport Operations of the Lagos state ministry of transport who declined to comment.
Vehicle inspection in the hands of e-hailing companies
Contrary to regulatory provisions which indicate that the state ministry of transport would be in charge of scheduled inspection of vehicles and the issuing of relevant documents like LASSRA ID card and LASDRI verification, body tags and drivers badge, it seems these functions have been relinquished to the hailing companies themselves.
For example, documents obtained by Technext shows that Uber has taken it upon itself to obtain these certifications and IDs for its drivers through its partner, Moove, a car dealership company.
While Moove is clearly an agency company sanctioned by Uber to help the drivers with these permits, the drivers, however, allege that Uber was making it compulsory that they obtained all the documents through Moove. They also complained that both companies were forcing them of parting with huge sums of money.
This has forced them to conclude that Uber was acting as a task force for the state government.
“Uber has turned itself into Lagos state government task force with the ministry of transport,” a driver-partner told Technext. “They are working with Moove to supply us cars of N7.2 million to be paid in weekly instalments. Why will I buy a car for that much just for Uber business?” he said.
The Lagos e-hailing regulation didn’t name the e-hailing companies as enforcers. As a matter of fact, Section 3.12 designated the ministry of transport as sole administrators and enforcers of this provision.
The Ministry shall cause all taxicabs now or hereafter to be inspected at least once every year aside from the regular roadworthy certification prescribed by the RTL 2012. The date of such inspection and the signature of the person making the inspection shall be recorded upon the inspection card as designated by the Ministry
In fact, section 4.2.9 of the regulation also expressly states that “a Support Entity (e-hailing company) shall not be deemed to control, direct or manage vehicles or drivers, except where expressly agreed to by written contract.”
Efforts made to reach Uber for its response proved abortive as they neither replied to their social media inboxes or a mail sent to them.
Impact on commission and compliance issues
When the regulation was released, last year, a section of drivers feared that the financial requirements would force e-hailing companies to up their commissions to meet up with the payments. But that hasn’t been the case as the commission is still pegged at 25%.
Since the companies try to maintain as minimal contact as possible with the drivers, even the drivers couldn’t ascertain if this was because the companies may not have started paying for their permits as well.
Yet, the big question is: have the e-hailing companies obtained their permits?
The e-hailing companies have kept mum over this. Uber can’t be reached but Bolt, in response to a query, issued a cryptic and almost cliched response:
We are currently engaging with regulatory authorities to seek better clarity on these guidelines in order to evaluate how they impact our business, drivers, and the passengers of Lagos and Abuja. Ultimately we want to work together with the government to develop a regulation that works best for all parties involved.Bolt Nigeria’s country manager, Akin-Laguda
Bolt’s response raises more questions than answers. First, it seems to indicate that the company hasn’t been abiding by the guideline. Perhaps, more importantly, it seems to suggest the regulation is not yet in force, at least for them (as they are still trying to work together with the government to develop a regulation that works best for all parties involved).
The quote also appears to contradict reports that representatives from all stakeholders involved, including Bolt, at a conference called by the state government for the adoption of the e-hailing regulation, clearly understood and voted in favour of adopting the regulation.
Premium Times particularly quoted a certain Abisola Odukoya as representing Bolt in that conference. This, therefore, begs the question, what clarity is Bolt still seeking?
Bolt didn’t respond to subsequent queries seeking further clarifications into this question and more.
What exactly are the objectives of the regulation?
While the drivers believe that the objective of the Lagos e-hailing regulation is nothing but a revenue drive, the state government says it is not. The objectives listed in the regulatory document includes enhancing safety and sanity on Lagos roads.
Others include the elimination of illegal taxi operations in the state, reduction of avoidable carnage and to curb kidnapping.
While e-hailing drivers (especially Bolt) have come under fire severally for their highhandedness and unprofessional conduct, one could hardly pin the problem of insecurity or the insanity on the roads in the state on them.
Not with the danfos, Keke’s and okadas (that have somehow found their way back in droves) still in business.
Numbers from the National Bureau of Statistics show that cars are responsible for more accidents in Nigeria. But it remains to be seen if the accident rate in the state has reduced since the implementation of the e-hailing regulations.
Lagos has always battled with illegal taxi operators as operatives of the state have a long history of arresting them. Before now, taxi operators in the state were required to register through the Lagos State Taxi Drivers and Cab Operators Association (LSTDCOA) and subsequently paint their vehicles yellow and black.
But e-hailing is a different thing altogether and rather than brand the operators as illegal, identifying, registering and integrating them into the state’s transport system would be a better idea and would leave little room for any operator to operate illegally.
While the Lagos e-hailing regulation looks like it’s here to stay, its implementation, however, leaves much to be desired.
From one e-hailing company taking it upon themselves to force driver-partners to comply (which seems to contravene the provision of the regulation) to another one suggesting it is yet to be on board with it, so far implementation seems skewed.
Worthy of note also is that e-hailing taxis still don’t have taximeters, no driver identification document conspicuously placed in the vehicles, and certainly no badges carried by the vehicles since they still look like regular cars.
One could only hope that the regulation is implemented to the latter else, the drivers’ claim that this might be just one huge revenue drive might begin to ring differently.