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‘Ever since okada came on the scene, our business started to suffer’

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The only constant thing in life is change, and as the times change, so does the way of doing things change. Technology has come to stay and is affecting every single aspect of our lives and it is no surprise it has found its way into transportation.These days, there are so many means of transportation and while they might not have totally solved the problems of a mega-city, such as Lagos, they certainly are improving.

Less than 10 years ago, e-hailing cab, Uber, burst onto the scene and by simply downloading the app and pressing a few buttons, a cab would appear in front of your house to take you to your destination in comfort. Now, there are several e-hailing cabs in Nigeria, as several others have joined, a move traditional taxis/cabs are unhappy about.
A visit to the Ifelodun Taxi Park Association in Sadiku, Ilasamaja area of Lagos, showed how bad business has become for them.

Secretary of the park, Ganiyu Arogundade, was asleep on a bench propped up against a wall, but was willing to speak on the situation. He had not gone on a single trip for the day, but was hoping that would change, as the day was still young. “This is not the first time that some people would bring fancy cabs and put on the road, hoping to push us out of business, but that would never happen, as we are on our own lane and would always survive.

“Competition is nothing new; it has always been in existence and would always remain. Before all these new eateries sprang up today, we used to have UAC, Leventis and the likes and everybody was selling. Those that couldn’t cope packed up.“So, the Ubers and Taxifys, no matter how many they are, they would go and we would remain. Arogundade admitted that the e-hailing cabs have greatly affected them, as business has slowed down considerably, adding: “You came now and met me sleeping, which shouldn’t be so. In the past, all of us used to go out at least four times daily, even on bad days. But now, some days, we don’t even go out at all.” Pointing at a man seated a little distance away, he said: “That is Number 1, he hasn’t gone out today and I am still well behind him.”

As he was speaking, a customer came and he abandoned the conversation to help Number 1 negotiate.“We help ourselves here, because by helping one another, you help yourself,” he continued later, even as he admitted that the e-hailing cabs were not even the major problem they (taxi drivers) face.“Ever since Okada came on the scene, our business started to suffer, because okadas were going even to far distances. These days, people carry anything and everything on okada; they can even transport corpses on them.

“When commercial tricycles (keke Marwa) came, the situation worsened and with the advent of the e-hailing cabs, the situation went from bad to worse. “However, I don’t want to worry too much, because they will still pack out the way they packed in.”On allegations that commuters preferred their rivals because of things, such as air-conditioner (AC) and picking them up from their homes, he retorted: “Did customers ask for AC and I said no? If they want AC, why can’t they say so? If you become my customer, call me anytime, I will come and pick you up from on top your bed if you wish.”

Rauf Olanrewaju, Secretary of the Ilasamaja Taxi Park Association located on the Oshodi Apapa Expressway in Lagos, shared similar sentiments, with his colleagues seated inside, either eating or sleeping or just staring into space. Olanrewaju said business was considerably poor and just two of their members had gone out as at the time The Guardian visited. He said: “This is not the first time we are being threatened. Just a few years ago, there were metro taxis and some other coloured taxis, but where are they today? They couldn’t stand the test of time, because they don’t understand this business. They think it is by putting on AC and using fancy cars.

“I have been in this business for years, trained others and my children from being a taxi driver, but now, all is being threatened with these new entrants. I even heard they have e-hailing okada, we will see how long they will all last.”When asked if he would want to join any of the new entrants, he just acknowledged his car wouldn’t be accepted, because it was an old model, adding: “I even heard that they don’t pay the drivers and I know two people that have removed their cars from one of the popular ones, because he wasn’t making much money.”

He went on to add that he had his steady customers who calls him and that is what is still keeping him afloat, noting: “If you pick a taxi from us here and you forget anything, you can come here and claim your item, but with these new drivers, they would deny it. “I don’t know how they are employed, because we hear all kinds of stories that you never used to hear with us.” Olanrewaju claimed that they had cabs in their parks that had AC and were only slightly more expensive than the ones without.

“If a customer needs a cab with AC, we would provide, but some complain that we overcharge, threatening to call an e-ride, claiming they would take less. We cannot stop them, it is their choice at the end of the day.”According to him, some days, they don’t leave the park, a situation he said saddens him greatly. But “it is not yet cause for alarm,” he quickly added.At the Isolo taxi park, one of the drivers, who chose to remain anonymous, lamented the situation, saying it has become very critical. “I cannot say people are not taking cabs anymore, because that is not possible. Some days, we don’t carry any passengers and this has made some of our members to start ‘shunting,’ that is, driving around, looking for passengers.

“Now, people are even using okada to go to the Lagos island from the mainland, claiming it is cheaper and faster than taxi, but can they be guaranteed of safety? If anything happens to them, they are on their own. “This is not the first time we are being threatened and it wouldn’t be the last time, but we would see which one of us would stand the test of time,” he said.

When informed that one could only innovate or die, he shrugged his shoulders, saying his members are innovative enough as far as he was concerned. “It is not by speaking grammar or sharing sweet. When last did you hear any bad story about a regular cab? We always hear different bad stories from these new cabs and it is no surprise, because anybody and everybody is going in and out, nobody knows who is who. If that is not innovative enough for you, that is not my business.”


In this article:
Ganiyu Arogundade
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