Uber’s Bad Sign Requires Government Action


Hometruths by Adeola Akinremi: Email: adeola.akinremi@thisdaylive.com

Uber is a beautiful business with ugly stories. The ride-sharing business is fast, cheap and smart, but its global record contains sexual assault, murder and theft.

In June, Los Angeles Times reported a bizarre story of a 46-year-old Uber driver who was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and kidnapping after an intoxicated passenger was taken to a hotel and attacked.

The Uber driver was seen on a camera carrying the passenger into the hotel. Instead of taking the passenger home according to Los Angeles Police the Uber driver took advantage of the drunken passenger and allegedly took her to a motel for sexual assault.

In a related story, another woman claimed she was raped after a sip from a water bottle she got from an Uber driver while in the passenger seat of his car. The woman sued Uber Technologies after a rape treatment centre confirmed her story with positive DNA result. The Uber driver did not contest the claim when he was charged for criminal sexual battery in court.

Honestly, the story of Uber is riddled with crisis and controversies from its boardroom to road trips. In London, United Kingdom, Transport for London and Uber Technologies are locked in epic battle of disrespect for transportation rules and lack of transparency in the latter’s business activities in the City of London. The whole idea is to get Uber out of London. The City of London is well prepared for it. With a suspended license, Uber is making overtures and appealing the suspension.

The TFL has said Uber’s “approach to reporting serious criminal offenses,” its “approach to how medical certificates are obtained,” its “approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks are obtained,” needs a rework.

Another piece of the pie is Greyball, a programme used by Uber to track government regulators’ use of the ride-hailing app (in order to hide activity) in the U.S.
Greyball and other criminal acts so far reported by Uber passengers from one city to the other across the United States have forced legislators into action compelling Uber drivers to have their fingerprints captured and many other stringent measures that have created no love lost relationship between Uber and governments everywhere in the United Sates.

There are plenty of reasons for Nigeria to act now before it’s too late. Nigeria does not have sophisticated security system and crime detection parameters like the United States and the United Kingdom, where men behind the steering in Uber cars and those managing its apps are beating security measures.
Yes, one other reason is that Nigeria is a country, where crime rate is like a bubble wrap with popping noise. The surge in crime rate is one reason the government must act on regulations not only around Uber drivers, but the passengers.

And if anyone thinks I am going too far, I’ll show you in a moment why there must be regulation asking Uber not only to have a solid way of conducting background checks on its drivers, but knowing who the passengers are.
The two major stories of crime I have heard around Uber service in Nigeria have been about armed robbers posing as passengers in order to use Uber drivers as means of escape, make them active participants or rob the unsuspecting drivers. It is like a reincarnation of Okada riders

For a timeline, I’ll bring back the stories: In April 2017, two armed robbers posing as passengers allegedly strangled an Uber driver to death in Lagos before stealing and escaping with his car to Edo State.
Second, in September, former winner of Gulder Ultimate Search, Hector Jobarteh, was murdered in the night in his bedroom after assailants pretending to be passengers used an Uber vehicle to arrive at his residence in New Oko-Oba, Agege, Lagos State.

Also, two Uber drivers who specialised in robbing women around Lekki area of their jewelry and expensive phones at gunpoint were arrested in Lagos last week.

I can’t help thinking that Uber model is not fit for Nigeria at this time, because criminals will take advantage of this ride-sharing to increase kidnapping, murder and theft.

For sure, it is already happening, and that should prick the hearts of regulators to throw Uber and other ride-sharing model out until such a time when our security system is strong enough to accommodate them.

One more thing, Uber Technologies is milking the cow that breeds the milk dry. The drivers are complaining after driving in traffic, buy gasoline, and pay their partner (car owner) with Uber deducting 25 per cent of their earnings. They say they are left with nothing for their toils.

And this is the big deal, the government is a looser. The government will not only have to increase funding for security to check crime rates, but many Uber drivers may not be paying tax since the company does not make direct tax deduction from the drivers and partners for remittance to the government. This is how it works: “As an independent contractor running your own business, taxes from your earnings are not withheld by the federal or state government. This means that it is your responsibility to file taxes at the end of each year,” Uber says in its frequently asked questions on its website.

Now, there must be something in the law to help victims of robbery inside Uber cars get compensation directly from Uber Technologies.

The law should prey on negligence and false claims of the company. It has happened elsewhere, and since 2009 Uber has had to deal with over $160 million payouts.

Seriously, the signs from Uber and other ridesharing companies are not good for Nigeria now.