By Demola Aderele, Tony Nwanne, Bola Kougbe, Bright Bassey
Oseni Ayeni, a taxi driver, is hurt by the introduction of Uber Taxi into the Lagos metropolis. He drives the well-known yellow-coated taxi, formerly, the dominant cab type in the city. The dark-hued, rotund Ayeni complained his business had slowed down since Uber became popular with taxi users. Jiggling his legs, Ayeni, who heads the Alhaji Masha Taxi Park, in Surulere, described the innovation as “frustrating” to cab drivers.
“People keep telling us that Uber is cheaper and convenient for them. Nowadays, we (local taxis) buy fuel, scavenge for passengers around town without getting any for many hours,” said Ayeni he said.
To Qudus Adekola, nothing could be more painful about the Uber invasion than customers’ perception of drivers of conventional taxis as “fraudulent” compared to their Uber counterparts. Adekola, who operates from Akowonjo Taxi Park, in Alimosho Local Government Area, submitted the scheme is a ploy to “steal our source of livelihood”.
“It seems everything is working against us. The fuel price is another serious issue; we had to hike our fares to keep up with our responsibilities as family men. Now, Uber has come with low fares and we are seen to be the fraudulent ones”, said Adekola.
Few meters away from Adekola, Azeez Monsuru, secretary of the Dopemu Taxi Park, expressed similar worry.
“Six of my former customers don’t call for my service any longer. They claimed to have switched on to Uber taxis,” Monsuru stated.
Unlike Adekola and Monsuru, Nnaji Okechukwu has managed to cultivate a customer loyalty among his old patrons. Despite this, Okechukwu, a young driver operating from Abule Oja Taxi Park, in Somolu Local Government Area, said he had been unable to recoup his investment in the cab business.
Moreover, taxi drivers are not any happier in Egbe Idimu Local Government Area, where Akinola Babatunde is secretary of the Isheri-Olofin Taxi park.
Upon newsbreak.ng’s inquiry, Babatunde wasted no time predicting the imminent death of the Uber taxi scheme, putting his belief down to the prevailing economic situation in the country.
“The cost of maintaining a vehicle is very high, so, if you are operating at cheap fares, you can’t survive. A car tyre is N17,000 and a battery is N20,000,” he said.
While local taxi operators lament the adverse effect of Uber taxis on their business, the result is accurately what the Uber phenomenon advertises – competition and innovation. To taxi users, the luxury and convenience of being driven in a neat, almost-new cars with functional air conditioning system is a lot preferable.
Also, the belief prominent among Uber taxi patrons of a cheaper and fraud-proof rate system, compared to conventional taxis, give the former an edge. Conversely, this belief is not evidence-based across majority of Uber users, due to complaints about shylocks cheating customers. A user, Kemi Sobowale, alleged a driver had attempted to cheat her by showing a screen-grabbed rate as her travel cost. While Sobowale was lucky to have detected the fraud, she claimed a couple of her friends were not with fradulent Uber drivers.
Despite such complaints, the popularity of Uber taxi continues to grow, especially among the burgeoning young, urban working class, with their insatiable thirst for modernity, safe business practices and a round-the-clock economy.
Uber, the American-owned company that leverages modern technology, uses a downloadable software application compliant with smart phones.