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Why LagRide must retire Uber, Bolt in Lagos

Say what you like, Lagos is changing and in a good way. I personally find not much for which to condemn that great city-state each…

Say what you like, Lagos is changing and in a good way. I personally find not much for which to condemn that great city-state each time I visit. No city-state is perfect. So many people rushing in one direction on a daily basis could result in huge snarl-ups. In fact, the traffic snarls in Lagos are nowhere near what is seen in many cities of China, Japan, UK or US. And the deployment of entities like LASTMA means that we have thinking people in government there that are ready to solve local problems using local solutions.  

I often wonder about the big ‘agbero’ problem of which guber contestants complained just a few months ago during the campaign. Lagos became a ping pong in the hands of politicians nationwide. It wasn’t Doherty, Jandor and Gbadebo that spoke about Lagos’ agbero problem. Everybody in opposition parties railed on end about agberos in Lagos, I was worried that they had developed the ability to snatch bags from flying airplanes.  

For me, I don’t come across these agberos that much. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I believe that statistically, Lagos is much safer than it was before.  We don’t hear of daredevil armed robbers that much. Even kidnappers have taken their trades elsewhere. Indeed, many Nigerians relocate to Lagos from troubled parts of Nigeria, for safety.  

I don’t take it likely with anyone who tries to run down our own best attempt at modern society. Those who administer Abuja – a city established on a clear template and built from scratch – have proven consistently to be deficient in vision and grossly lacking in capacity. 

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Man arrested with police uniform in Lagos

Lagos is changing. Lagos has changed. It’s the only city in Nigeria where you are likely to find some functioning traffic lights. In fact, Lagos is the first city that returned to the idea of traffic lights after they had been abandoned nationwide. With the surging crowds in Lagos, the administrators work hard daily to ensure things do not break down entirely. Development has spread in Lagos, with new cities opening up in the Lekki-Epe axis, while old areas such as Agege – Alakuko, and of late, Mile 2 towards Badagry, getting a new lease of life. 

But what concerns me today is LagRide. This is the rideshare idea put together by the government of Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Without as much as advertisements, this idea promises to tell a different story of that city. When I discussed this with someone, he said Lagos might be heading towards being a Dubai with the LagRide idea.

So, LagRide are these white-and-blue taxis that operate under some Public-Private Partnership with the state government. The state government does not own any taxis but enables the car manufacturer – which are Chinese I think – to sell to investors and drivers under some lease agreement. The idea leans on the examples of Uber and Bolt, in deploying technology to ensure the fidelity of all transactions. But LagRide is holding up better than the now-tired Uber and Bolt in terms of standards, at least in Nigeria.  

Uber and Bolt seem to have totally lost the whole idea of why they were a revolution when they appeared in our environment. The cars listed are increasingly dilapidated their drivers seem to be getting lesser training or none at all. They no longer clean their cars before picking up passengers and are now going back to being like their Lagos yellow taxi fathers and grandpas, even in terms of attitude. It is now most likely that your next ride driver is rude, uncouth, unwashed, abusive, and even criminal.

On social media presently circulates a short clip of what appeared to be one of those drivers who openly battled with a hard on maybe because his rider showed too many laps. Uber and Bolt drivers in Nigeria now get up to all sorts of pranks – they show up with cars totally different from what is listed, and what is worse, in the Lagos local airport (MMA2M precisely), they routinely frustrate riders by picking and cancelling your ride simply to obtain your phone number and names through the app and then negotiate much higher prices with you after having taken you off the radar.

I had written about this very recently here (see) and exactly nothing happened. Uber and Bolt do not really care about the business in Nigeria anymore. I guess we are as usual, too troublesome. I also think they will not mind losing the business. 

And this is where LagRide comes in. Unlike Uber and Bolt, I think for now there is still the fear of officialdom. These are taxis emblazoned with Lagos State colours, so the drivers seem to be behaving themselves. They hardly cancel you once they pick up your ride. They have no reason to. The arrangements ensure that they are incentivized to pick rides and record their movements officially.

The cars are (still) fairly new. There is at least one camera installed in the car to record every ride and it captures even the conversation in the car. This is referred to in any eventuality and gives both rider and driver a lot of confidence. There hasn’t been any untoward even recorded about LagRide even though I understand just 1,000 cars were deployed in the first phase, with many a ‘big man’ having bought the N7 million – N8 million Chinese cars and parked them at home.

One driver said he took someone to Redeemed Camp and found more than 100 of the LagRide cars parked there. LagRide cars are often neat and their drivers appear well-trained and cautious. I reckon they are required to bring guarantors. Even though most of them work for car owners, an average driver takes home at least N150,000 per month.

The arrangement for now is that two statutory payments are made daily – N6,000 for the app company, and N9,000 for the finance company who bankrolled the car. Whatever is left is for fuel and the driver, except where there is an owner, who would collect between 20% and 40% of daily takings (before fueling).

The only complaint gathered from drivers is that the state government should step in and reduce exploitation (which does not occur often). 

This write-up is therefore aimed at urging the Lagos State government to double down on this idea which will have a very salutary impact on the image of the state apart from providing jobs for thousands of young drivers. Whether detractors like it or not, Lagos is rapidly changing for the better and even better days are coming.

Lagos may be approaching the level of a UAE if these branded taxis are more available. The fact that they are branded lends brand equity to Lagos. More tourists and businesspeople will go to Lagos just for that added confidence and the idea that Lagos is more organised. I am writing this because one may not assume that those in government are aware of the advantages that they sit upon. A third eye like mine may be the needed impetus for more investment.

I understand there are some 3,000 new cars which had been promised. Lagos cannot wait for this great initiative which benefits from technology as well. The Global Positioning Systems on the LagRide cars are working perfectly. Perhaps like Singapore and Kigali, Lagos does not need Uber or Bolt. Governor Sanwo-Olu should ensure that this advantage is taken right now and that this idea does not die out. We don’t get this lucky very often. 

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