By OKOSUN DEENIS
Since Uber began operation in Nigeria few years ago, it has witnessed an unprecedented enthusiasm from huge passenger’s influxes.
National Daily check revealed that within the short time of its operations, Uber has grown its passenger traffic exponentially; making it one of the best taxi services in Nigeria at the moment.
Despite recent competition by other taxi operators – private or companies, the high class brandishing latest car model, Uber remains unparalleled.
National Daily gathered that Uber started operation in 2009 with a view to resolving a simple problem – how do you get a ride at the touch of a button?
However, with barely eight years of its existence in over 475 cities in over 75 countries including Nigeria and spanning six continents, it has recorded over two billion trips.
However, despite plethora of achievements, the major problem is grappling with greater challenge: reducing congestion and pollution in cities by getting more people into fewer cars.
According to Samantha Allenberg, in charge of Communications in Africa, Uber is a technology software application, and they don’t own any car or employ any driver, but they partner with independent contractors (driver-partners) who pay a service fee on every trip for lead generation software.
It was further learnt that Uber is not a taxi or transport company as a result the idea of having UberTaxi or UberCab does not exist rather, it was disclosed that the app that exists on users of the service smartphone or desktop is Uber.
Unfortunately, in recent times, with avalanche of complaints from few passengers coupled with the sophistication of crime in the society, some riders are getting apprehensive; especially now that armed robbers have robbed some drivers, killed another while some dubious drivers in their fleet have robbed passengers of their valuables – money and expensive phones.
Regrettably, things seem to be on the decline for the company with the avalanche of crime associated with it in recent times coupled with other competitors in the taxi business.
While armed robbers are targeting cars in their service, so also some private taxi drivers are jealous of the success achieved by Uber.
Investigation, however, revealed that some dubious drivers with criminal intention have fought tooth and nail to secure a slot using Uber service. The moment they have unfettered access, they collude with criminals to attack passengers when they know such person has expensive valuables and money on him/her and dispossess them of it.
Robbers targets Uber
A check by National Daily indicates that Uber has been attacked several times by armed robbers in recent times. In the revise case, some passengers were also said to have been attacked by the drivers during transit.
While a driver was killed, some were lucky to have been rescued by police while the
suspected robbers were arrested.
Early in May 2017, an auto mechanic was arrested for attempting to hijack Uber after dispossessing the driver of N80,000 and telephone at Oshodi-Oke, Lagos. However, the quick intervention of personnel of the Lagos State Police Rapid Response Squad (RRS) thwarted the attempt by three armed robbers.
Responding to National Daily’s enquiry, Samantha Allenberg, Communications-Africa said, “We are deeply committed to the safety of both riders and driver-partners. That is why we have made safety features like GPS tracking (of every trip) a reality.
“Our Incident Response Team (IRT) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond immediately to any reported incidents or accidents globally, she reiterated.
However, police source revealed that the arrested suspect, Emmanuel John Ugbomah, 37, from Ndukwa, Delta State, had boarded the taxi driven by one Adebisi, a black Toyota Corolla 2009 model, in Lekki with the intention of going to Ikeja but cornered him at Oshodi Oke where they wanted to rob him of the car.
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Explaining to the police how he was attacked, Adebisi said that “When I was about to climb the Oshodi – Oke Bridge, one of them grabbed me from the back seat, another closed my mouth with his hand. They pointed a gun-like object at my head and they were shouting that I should come down and come to the back seat. Immediately, I unbuckled the seat belt and opened the door.
“Fortunately, I saw some RRS policemen at the bridge. I screamed robbers! robbers!! and ran towards them. They immediately swung to action after I explained to them that my car was about to be stolen. They ran towards the direction of my car and apprehended one of them but two others escaped.”
While responding to the insistent robbery incidences on Uber, Samantha reiterated that “Everyone has the right to be safe, whether they’re on a train, in a cab, walking on a
sidewalk or in an Uber.
“No means of transportation can be 100% incident or accident-free, technology can improve safety by creating accountability and transparency where previously there was none.
However, some individuals spoken by our reporter stated that one of the reasons robbers target Uber is due to the “clean” and flashy nature of their cab.
Adewale, a passenger that had ridden on Uber explained that in recent times, “I would say Uber has consistently maintained a high class in terms of the cars on its fleet. The cleanliness, the comportment of their drivers and the posh nature of their cars stand it out among other competitors.”
Also speaking, Victor, a taxi driver in Lagos wasn’t amazed that Uber has become a target of robbers. He told National Daily in Obalende that their cars are attractive as the company restrict partners to a particular model which make their taxi relatively new and flashy.
“They don’t accept cars below 2007 model. Because of the newness of their cars, more passengers are attracted to them living us to struggle with the few available passengers.
If as a result, criminals are attracted to steal any of the cars in their fleet, I’ll not be surprised,” he explained.
It was also gathered that because their vehicles are relatively new, criminals find “Already made” market within and outside the country.”
Sadly, a driver Innevosa Emmanuel was strangled by robbers at Ikeja after dispossessing him of his KIA RIO salon car with registration number: KTU 594 DM with the intention to resell.
It was gathered that the suspects had boarded the vehicle at Ikeja to Oke-Ira in Ogba. During the trip, they made a U-turn towards Oremeji Obawole Street where the driver was strangled with a belt by the robbers before making away with his car.
Uber Drivers attack passenger
Apart from armed robbers attacking Uber drivers leading to the death of a driver in Lagos recently, there has been other arrest by the police of some suspects.
However, on the extreme case, a driver robbed a South African – a first visitor to Nigeria – identified as Mongy Mathobela, of his passport, N500,000 and $2,000, didn’t only rubbish the calibre of drivers recruited by partners into Uber, but went a long way in denting the image of the country.
One Ese Osagie, an Uber passenger recently took to her tweeter handle to report the attack on her by one of their driver identified as Razaq Kutere-Aga, who had attempted to rob her.
Ese warned riders to be careful when riding Uber at night as she almost got robbed at night when riding Uber.
Narrating her ordeals, she said “I boarded the cab from Isaac John in Ikeja to Ikoyi, but the driver started to act funny and aggressive. I stepped in and immediately opened the car door and jumped off. The driver chased me with the car after she made her way out of the car.
Advising riders not to lose sight of basic observances, Samantha Allenberg, admonished passengers to note that immediately a driver accepts a rider’s request, the rider must strive to recognise the driver’s first name, photo, license plate number, type of vehicle as well as the vehicle colour which are displayed and be able to see these from within the app itself – on the map.
She further cautioned that “The rider should always make sure that those match before they enter the vehicle and ensure they ask for the driver’s name when they open the door,” he added.