Lagosians bid conventional transportation goodbye
The upwardly mobile Lagosians are gradually bidding goodbye to conventional means of transportations, thanks to the deployment of new, modern and technology-driven, fast and safe innovations in the use of cars and even motorcycles to beat city’s perennial traffic situation.Apparently, Nigerians are not as lawless as sometimes portrayed, as more customers are seen at most parts of the city, either fastening their helmet and other protective gadgets before mounting the ‘bikes’ or taking them off on arrival at their destinations.
As for the fully air-conditioned cars (cabs), the commuter is shown the bill on the charging gadget screen on arrival and the bill is debited from the customers registered credit card once the transaction is completed, leaving less chance for extortion. Titilope Adebukola, an unemployed graduate residing in Ajao Estate area of Oshodi Council, told The Guardian after alighting from a Gokada bike that prior to her decision to patronise Gokada, she was in a commercial vehicle on her way for an interview in Victoria Island.
“We got stuck in the traffic. I was running late and frustrated, so I called them and in less than five minutes, the bike arrived and I made it to my interview in time. “The amazing part was the brevity of driving time from 7/8 bus stop on Airport road to Victoria Island without any form of recklessness. When my bill came, I felt as though I was charged less and I remember questioning the young man if he hadn’t made a mistake by charging me as low as N800.
“So, for me, this is my new means of transportation when I have to be at a very important place in time,” she said. Adebukola added that she didn’t feel at risk on the ‘flying bike,’ like she would if she were on the regular commercial motorcycle (okada). “I guess it felt safe because of all the safety precautions, guarded kitting and the driver’s cautious driving,” she reckoned.Kenneth Ubong, a banker and car owner, said he no longer drives to his office in Ikoyi since the introduction of the innovation. “I have Max Okada and Gokada apps on my phone and call anyone each day to take me from my house to the office.
“Although most times I join my colleague in the evening back home, but I don’t negotiate going to the office in the morning with either of these two. They take safety measures and ensure their passengers have the helmet fastened, so they don’t feel unsafe. “I think what make these bikes work, aside the use of technology, is the drivers/riders. Most of these guys have formal education and are cool-headed. They are distinct from the regular okada drivers who most times drive under the influence of alcohol and get erratic,” he said.
Ugochukwu Anochie, a spare parts seller in Lagos Island, commended the innovation. “Uber, Taxify, Gokada and others are excellent initiatives, because for the first time in Nigeria, I can say we seem to be getting something right. “I can stay at the comfort of my home and have transportation come to me. That used to be an ease-of-life you get only when you travel out of the country.
“The problem, however, is sustenance. Our people lack continuity of excellence; we don’t know how to sustain positive initiatives. “I hope this improved transportation has come to stay and over all, a start of better innovations in other sectors aside transportation.”Anochie added that corporate organisations and business owners should invest in infrastructures and social amenities without necessarily waiting for government. “Apparently, we have to do it ourselves and can no longer continue to wait for these politicians, at least not if we have to develop our country and better the living condition of citizens,” he said. Tokunbo Adeyinka, an information technology personnel, said the beauty of Uber, Taxify, Max-Okada and others is the use of the price charging technology devices without any form of extortion.
“You pay as you go and the craziness of excess charges by the conventional taxi drivers and okada under the excuse of traffic and bad road has been defeated. “This is just the beginning of improved use of technology to better our lives. All we need as a nation is to have investors on other ease of living innovations.”Emenike Onyedika, a pharmacist, is particularly appreciative of the new means of transportation, as “they can take you as far as you wish to go within the state without restriction. I can easily put a call through to Gokada and go anywhere within the city.
‘It is not the same with the regular okada, who cannot ply the highways, meaning that you still get stuck in the unpredictable traffic on highways. “So, this is a welcome innovation and a lot of people talk about how efficient these technologised bikes are,” he said. Adekunbi Kuye, who uses Max Okada regularly, said: “I have never heard of express bike service until I stood at Oshodi bus stop. I was approached by a well-dressed guy, who asked me where my destination was and I told him Ogba. He brought out his phone and activated an app from Oshodi to Ogba, estimated the price and said, ‘Madam, I can take you there, please direct me.’
“As adventurous as I was, I hopped on the bike, he handed me a cap and helmet. All these while, I was shocked. The bike man was very polite and apologised whenever we bumped into a pothole. Trust me, he was so polite. “Finally, I could be called Ajala the traveller, because I have a reliable bike service app to take me to all my rush-hour work in this busy Lagos.”
A Gokada user, David Ituh, shared his first experience: “I had to be in Lekki at the time and was running late. I didn’t know what to do, but my colleague suggested them. “Before then, I would see them drive past and would regard them as a branded bike on their personal mission. I didn’t know what they do, so when I got a biker and he knitted me up, I was amazed.”He said the reception he got from the biker startled him, as he gradually engaged him in discussions, which he would never have with the regular bikes. Even when I wanted him to follow a ‘one-way,’ he refused politely and gave reasons why it was wrong.
“So far, it has just been a reliable way for me to move around, especially living in Ipaja area of Lagos, where road constructions have resulted to serious traffic.”Femi Johnson, who has used the Gokada service, added that it was quite affordable and not as expensive as he thought. “The rates are almost the same with the regular bikes, but I have lost the app after I formatted my phone, so I now rely on flagging them down on the road till I restore the app.”
However, Adaobi Obodo, who has phobia for bikes, having had two near-death encounters on them, said the prices are a bit too high and would rather patronise Taxify. “I have had two accidents on a bike, which almost took my life, so I try as much as possible to avoid bikes. The Taxify drivers are very friendly and I look forward to a ride with them. A lot of them would offer advice during the trip and most times help me locate my destination without extra charge.”
Benjamin Otulugbu, a Gokada rider, is ever grateful for coming on the platform. “I used to be a dispatch rider and one day, I found my colleague on Gokada. After he explained all that was involved in running the business, I immediately fell in love with it and went on to quit my dispatching riding job. “Since the day I joined, my life has not been the same, as I can comfortably pay my house rent and I am also paying my younger sister’s school fees. It has just been wonderful for the past three months I joined,” he enthused.
Otulugbu stressed that customers can be gotten either through the app or when flagged down while riding. “The best way of getting your customers is being jovial to them, which is part of the training we got. “We were also taught to be conscious of our personal hygiene, as looking good promotes business, to maintain our bikes and beware of road traffic signs. If we don’t do any of these, we would be terminated,” he explained.
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.”