Apparently not satisfied with the embargo on motorcycles (popular as Okada) and tricycles (popular as Keke), the Lagos State government has turned the heat on car-hailing companies operating in the state.
On February 1, 2020, it had swooped on motorbike-hailing operators in the state, barring them from plying most parts of the state. This new policy caused chaos in the state, throwing thousands into the super-saturated labour market, while making commuting very cumbersome for residents.
While motor-hailing companies and several Lagosians are persuading the government to relax the ban, a week after the Okada ban, the state went ahead to spread its dragnet to car-hailing companies like Uber and Bolt, with the claim that the law was already in force in the state.
Three Uber drivers told Financial Standard that the enforcement was hampering their operations and that they were ignorant of the said laws until recently.
A source in the Lagos Vehicle Inspection Services said commercial vehicle drivers, Uber, Bolt, and other car-sharing platforms were expected to be certified by the Lagos Drivers’ Institute before operating in the state.
He disclosed that Uber had not paid an operator licence fee to the state government. “You need to have what we call operator licence, which Uber and others were supposed to pay to the government.”
This has led to the impounding of some Uber cars, and the driver had to pay N60,000 to claim their vehicle, we learnt.
Drivers on car-hailing platforms, the source added, do not necessarily need Hackney permits, except some that operate outside the model of the car-hailing services, by picking passengers like commercial buses.
According to him, when they are caught, the police will request a Hackney permit, which costs about N3,000 and above, depending on the engine capacity of the vehicle.
We also learnt that the law requires that commercial vehicle drivers, including those on the ride-hailing platforms, must be certified by LASDRI as a prerequisite for operating in the state.
LASDRI certification is mandatory for all professional drivers in Lagos and is to be re-certified yearly.
The Chief Executive Officer of LASDRI, Phillip Ogunlade, said, “Professional drivers are defined as those who earn a living as drivers, either in the public or private sector.”
Car-hailing companies appear to be standing on the fence, obviously avoiding any confrontation with the government or exploring legal options.
Uber declined comment, but did not deny negotiations with the government.
Head, Communications for Uber, West Africa, Efosa Aiyevbomwan, said, “We can’t at this time speak on any potential or ongoing policy and regulatory conversations with the government.”
Aiyevbomwan added the company would continue to work closely with the Lagos government to ensure smooth operation in line with global best practices.
His words, “Uber continues to work closely with the Lagos State government to ensure that our operations align with best practices locally and internationally.
“We will also continue to work with the government in ensuring that drivers are able to earn a living, while riders move from point A to B, comfortably and conveniently, at the touch of a button.”
Bolt and other car-hailing companies are yet to make any public statement concerning the regulation.
Commuters are groaning as a result of this disruption, as it has resulted in the hike in transport fare. Uber and Bolt increased their rates as demand increased.
To worsen the situation, commercial buses hiked their fares, and this has affected the cost of goods and services in Lagos.