Some Uber drivers in Nigeria’s commercial capital may go on strike on Monday to protest the recent clampdown by the Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Services.
Two officials of the VIS told newsmen earlier in the week that the enforcement of already existing laws guiding the operations of professional drivers in the state began recently.
“We are going on strike by Monday,” a driver who gave his name as Michael said on Saturday morning. “VIO (Vehicle Inspection Officers) are disturbing us too much these days.”
One of the VIS officials said commercial vehicle drivers and those on Uber and other ride-hailing platforms must be certified by the Lagos Drivers’ Institute before they can operate in the state.
Uber drivers, he said, must have hackney permits since they use their vehicles for commercial purposes. He also said Uber has also not paid an operator license fee to the state government.
Three Uber drivers told newsmen on Saturday that the enforcement is hampering their operations and that they were not aware of the laws until recently.
Those whose cars were impounded were asked to pay a ₦60,000 fine.
Another driver, Taiwo, said he was aware that some of his colleagues will not be working on Monday but told newsmen he won’t be joining them although he does not have a LASDRI certification and a hackney permit.
A spokesman for Uber in West Africa Efosa Aiyevbomwan said he was not aware drivers on the ride-hailing platform planned to go on strike but said Uber was open to engaging with drivers to understand their concerns.
“We are constantly working to improve their experience to ensure flexibility, increased economic opportunity, and driver support,” Aiyevbomwan said in an emailed statement.
He also said the drivers are independent and that they are in control of when they work.
“The vast majority of independent drivers continue to rely on the freedom and flexibility the Uber app provides.”
Violet Johnson was on her way to work when the car in which she was travelling was stopped at Anthony Village by VIS officials.
As the Uber driver had no hackney permit and LASDRI license, his driver’s license was seized and was only allowed to complete the trip after a 20-minute delay.
“The officials told him since he was on a trip and the destination was not far off, he should drop me off and come back to sort things out,” Johnson said.
Despite the trouble, her loyalty still lies with Uber.
Months before Lagos started clamping down on Uber drivers that are not compliant with its laws, London dealt a big blow to the ride-hailing giant.
Citing safety and security concerns last November, Transport for London (TfL) declined to renew Uber’s license. Over 50,000 drivers were affected. Uber said the decision was wrong and it will appeal.
But one of the VIS officials who spoke to newsmen said the government was not interested in impounding vehicles.
“We are not after impounding anybody’s vehicle. We want everybody to feel comfortable doing business in Lagos,” he said.
Aiyevbomwan said in an earlier email that Uber was ready to work “closely with all relevant stakeholders in Lagos to ensure that our operations align with best practices.”
He doubled down on that position on Saturday.
“Drivers are important to us and there are a number of ways they can speak to Uber about their individual concerns,” he said.