By David Olalekan.
The Lagos State Taxi Drivers and Cab Operators Association, has lamented a drop in patronage following the operation of e-cab hailing services in the state.
The General Secretary of the association, Taiwo Omolekan, who spoke in an interview with the Punch explained how the likes of Uber, Bolt and other taxi services were on the verge of driving the traditional yellow taxis into extinction.
Omolekan criticized the immediate past governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode for shunning the association along with its concerns when e-cab hailing services were introduced in Lagos.
He said: “We have not been finding it easy at all. When they came in, we thought that they would also be made to pass through the process we passed through to get a franchise. We thought they would be given certificates and that colours would be allocated to them.
“If you look at the Lagos State Traffic Law, it is stated clearly that anyone that wants to operate taxi service must obtain franchise certificate. After you must have done that, a distinctive colour will be allocated to you. During the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola, about nine franchisees were licenced, including the Lagos State Taxi Drivers and Cab Operators Association (Yellow Taxis).
“We were allocated yellow colour; C&I Limited was allocated red; and Cooperate Cabs was allocated navy blue. That was how it was done. But the e-cab hailing services came in towards the end of Fashola’s administration.
“When Ambode came in, he didn’t even give us any attention. We wrote several letters to him to say that we would like to meet with him but throughout his tenure, we were unable to meet with him let alone talk about the problems in the transport sector. He didn’t give us any audience.
“So when Uber, Bolt, Oga Taxi all came in, there were issues. The most painful part is that they were running taxi business in a coded way. We believe that if you’re a taxi driver, people should know that you’re a taxi driver. You should not be ashamed of your work. That is why some countries have driven them away.”
He disclosed that yellow taxis were now being disparaged in the state, as most estates and hotels deny them entrance.
“Yellow is the colour associated with Lagos, so if a taxi from Lagos drives to any part of the country, people will know it is a Lagos taxi. But now, that has changed. You will notice that yellow taxis are gradually going into extinction.
“Some of our members are now changing their colour from yellow to others to appear like private vehicles because estates and hotels are not helping matters.
“They are treating yellow taxis like they are anathema to them. Now, yellow taxis are not granted access to some hotels again.
“Many of the estates in Lagos have started restricting yellow taxis from entering. They will even place a signpost to inform yellow taxi drivers that there is no entry”, he said.
He added that the traditional taxis were compelled to undergo series of exorbitant certifications which isn’t applicable to e-cab hailing services.
“The vehicle particulars (documents) that taxis operating in Lagos are expecting to get are nine. Body tag is compulsory for yellow taxis to have; we pay N3,500 annually to get it. Apart from that, we must get driver’s certification and renew it every year; it costs N3,000. It is called LASDRI certificate. If you don’t have it, you will pay N20,000 as fine to the Vehicle Inspection Office. Apart from that, we must obtain driver’s badge, which is N6,500.
“Ask all the drivers registered with any of the e-cab-hailing services if they have these things. What they would have is vehicle licence, roadworthiness certificate and insurance certificate.
“We don’t have any other job; this is the only job we have. And in our communities, people know it is our job. But imagine somebody working in an insurance company or elsewhere still driving a cab after work and competing with us”, he queried.
Omolekan noted that the Lagos State Taxi Drivers and Cab Operators Association, which once boasted of 12,000 members now struggled to account for 5,000 members in its records.
“Some of our members have left to join the e-cab hailing services, saying if you cannot beat them, you join them”, he stated.