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Uber: The Good, Bad And Ugly

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By Lukmon Akintola

On Tuesday, July 19, 2016, after a very hectic day, a lady ordered an Uber ride somewhere around Bourdilion Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State.

On the day, the Uber driver was a good-looking chubby and dark-complexioned man named Gregory Shola Okorodudu. He was also a graduate with distinctions and has a Masters Degree in Petroleum and Gas Engineering.

He picked the Uber request from the lady and called to get the exact description of where she was.

On getting to her location, he said “Good evening Madam,” he got out of the car, took her bag, asked where she wanted to sit and opened the door for her. He again asked if she was okay.

In the course of the ride, the Uber driver and the lady got into a conversation about ‘Ribs of Fire’, a barbeque pork ribs with fries outlet, something they both love.

At the end of the conversation, the lady realised that she had met a great, romantic, partner potential. Today, they are married.

It was a sweet and joyous Uber experience for the lady.

It is sad that many Uber rides do not have a happily-ever-after ending. There are tales of woe, regrets, and disappointments in recent times for Uber customers. What used to be a classy, cheap and comfortable taxi-ride experience is getting a bad reputation today.

The story of how an Uber driver, Innevosa Emmanuel, was strangled to death in his car and the car, a Kia Rio, stolen, remains fresh in the minds of many.

Emmanuel’s alleged killers Osharon Egberenmuen and Michael Eyoekpe boarded his vehicle from Ikeja, Lagos State and asked him to take them to Ogba, Oke-Ira. On his way to their destination, they suddenly ordered him to make a U-turn and take them to Oremeji Street, Obawole area of Ogba, where he was strangled to death with a belt. Till date, the experience still sends shivers down the spine of many. The parents and family of Emmanuel continues to mourn the death of a hard worker, who turned to Uber to make his daily bread.

The case of Emmanuel is not an isolated one, given the fact that he is not the only Uber Nigeria driver on record to have suffered a gruesome treatment from phony customers.

It also goes both ways. The thought of being robbed, or even worse beaten up, by an Uber driver especially when the passenger is defenceless is another common scare of taking an Uber transport.

This appears to be the new trend, as at least two persons have been reportedly beaten up by Uber drivers recently.

Famutimi Femi recounted how his friend was almost beaten up by an Uber driver identified as Jude Idoko. According to Femi, his friend was attacked after she declined to pay more than the usual fare.

Driving a Toyota Corolla with License plate LSD 295 EC, Idoko picked up his passenger from Yaba, Lagos. During the trip, he requested that it be made ‘off the book’ and the passenger pay N10,000.

Having been turned down by the passenger, Idoko got angry and started screaming that he had no time to waste and that the passenger was wasting his time. He then grabbed her bag, breaking the screen of her phone in an attempt to punch her.

It was passers-by who saved the female passenger; she probably would have gotten the beating of her life.

If that account of an incident with an Uber driver was scary, the next one is even scarier. On Wednesday, May 10, Afolaranmi Motosinoluwa recounted her experience in the hands of another Uber driver simply named Olatubosun.

According to her, the driver got angry and attacked her simply because she complained about his driving and not being comfortable.

Had the attack on Afolaranmi been verbal, perhaps it would have been a simple case of exchanging insults with a driver.

However, it went beyond that as she recounted how the driver subsequently got down from his car, pulled her with her hair, slapped her and subsequently left her with a numb index finger.

Afolaranmi revealed that during the altercation, the Uber driver went as far as calling her father an animal all because she complained about his driving.

Sadly, some foreigners who are used to taking Uber in their countries also get a bad taste when they get to Nigeria. South African Mongy Mathobela went to hell and back, many thanks to an Uber driver who absconded with his belongings.

According to reports, Mathobela who was visiting Nigeria for the first time was defrauded of his international passport and monies running into over N1 million.

“I’m a visitor in Nigeria. I went to the bank to withdraw money in Lekki, so he saw the money that I had in my bag. He left me stranded on the road. Luckily, I had my phone on me because I wanted to buy something on the side of the road. I even bought him food and paid him more than what he was supposed to be paid and inside my bag, it was my passport and money, about 500 thousand Naira and $2000,” said Mathobela.

The Uber driver, who robbed Mathobela, was subsequently arrested following a tipoff by someone in his neighbourhood in Ogba, Lagos State.

These bad experiences by passengers are believed to be a factor caused by poor remuneration for the drivers. Most of the drivers do not own their cars, so they drive for car owners. When Uber takes 25%, the driver and the owner have to split the difference and still bear the cost of maintaining the car and fuelling it.

The owner on the other hand, is doing nothing but collect his money at the end of the week. However, it is the driver that does all the work and moves around at odd hours, yet gets stipends at the end of the day. This can easily lead to the driver losing his cool with passengers or even try his hands at theft.

Ugwu Frank Ikechukwu, a former Uber driver holds the opinion that Uber itself is not fair in its dealing with its drivers.

According to him, “I only joined Uber to try it and I understood that they only care about themselves, and not about the welfare of the drivers.”

Ikechukwu talks about his experience with Uber. “The first vehicle I used was a 2008 Toyota Camry (muscle). One day, I fuelled it with N9,200. I was online with Uber from 7am to midnight and couldn’t go home because I live far from the city centre. So I spent the night at Bolingo Hotel. The following day, I drove for about an hour or two before the fuel ran out. I called the owner of the vehicle and told him and he asked me to fuel the car again with N5,000 which I used till around5pm.

When I got home, I met the owner who asked me how much I made, even though he had the records since partners monitor all trips on the app. I told him regardless, that I made about N25,000 and Uber had already taken their share which left me with approximately N18,000. Uber collects 25% of every charge on each ride.

The remaining earnings are split between the driver, the owner of the vehicle and vehicle maintenance. So when I went to the man, he said we should reason. We bought fuel of approximately N14,000. We removed the money and were left with N4,000. How were we supposed to split N4,000? People do not reason before starting a business, which is very important. Anyway, we did the calculations and realized that there was no profit in it,” he said.

These negativities are coming at a time when Uber Worldwide is seeking new leadership with its chief executive Travis Kalanick recently stepping down.

An article, written by Venessa Page and published on Investopedia, details the real idea behind Uber Cab Hire Services founded 2009, in San Francisco, America.

According to the article, Uber was setup to connect people in the city who needed but couldn’t find taxis with limousine and town car drivers who wanted to make extra money.

However, this humble mission has been tainted by controversies. Globally, Uber Cab Hire Services seems to have unique challenges, which affect it from one country to the other.

In 2014, the service was temporarily banned in New Delhi, India, when a driver was found guilty of raping a passenger. The ban was subsequently lifted in 2015.

In America, Uber drivers went to court seeking to be identified as employee and not independent contractors. Uber has also been affected by government sanctions too in several countries.

On Tuesday, May 9, Uber drivers protested a 40 percent fare reduction in Lagos, Nigeria. Aside this, other challenges facing the service, which came into Nigeria in September 2014, include the risk of stolen vehicles by Uber drivers, safety of the lives of drivers and indeed the passenger. There have also been allegations of Uber not assisting car owners recover their vehicles when stolen by drivers.

Criticisms of lack of adequate background check before admitting drivers by Uber has been raised. The mental state of Uber drivers have also been called into question following physical attacks on passengers.

All these shortcomings are what have given rise to competitors, as new entrants such as Smart and Taxify announced their entrance in the lucrative business.

These ranges of complain and allegations put a dent on the image of Uber and its laudable progress in Nigeria. Transport analysts insist that the services is only still surviving due to the high unemployment rate and the fact that people are rushing for jobs no matter how little they make.

Many people are however hooked on Uber and cannot go back to taking the old taxis. They are more comfortable with air conditioning. Yet many are leaving the service in droves based on bad experiences.

The service may need to restructure or die off as some analysts have predicted for the company.
Passanger Safety tips

Request your ride inside. Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand. Instead, wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived.

Get in the right car. Before you get in the car, check that license plate, driver photo, and driver name all match what’s listed in the app. Uber rides can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber and offers a ride.

Be a backseat rider. If you’re riding alone, sit in the backseat. This ensures you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic, and it gives you and your driver some personal space.

Share your trip details with a friend. While en route, you can take a picture of the driver, the license plate and the car.

Protect your personal information. There’s no need to share your phone number or other contact information with your driver. If a rider and driver need to contact each other, the Uber app automatically anonymizes both phone numbers to protect everyone’s privacy.

Don’t allow him/her pick someone else, come down immidiately this happens.

Don’t carry cash. Pay online if possible.

It’s better you take UBER to only places you have been before or familiar with.

Always comment on the driver’s attitude. It helps put them in check.
Driver Safety

All riders must create an account and provide their name, email address, and phone number before they can request a ride. So when you accept a request, you’ll know who you’re picking up and so will Uber.

Do not go to outskirts and dense areas

Do not go into riders’ appartment even to pick up luggage. Make sure you only pick luggage right in front or by the side of the passanger.

Try as much as possible to always be in the car.

Do not returninsults or derogatory remarks. Simply report rude passangers to Uber.

You rate your rider after every trip. The review/ratings ensures that everyone you pick up is as respectful as you are.

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