Digital Transport Services and the Nigerian Transport Laws

From the generation of Ubers, we evolved with time to Max, Gokada and O’Ride amongst many other similar transport platforms that have come to be a necessary part of our existence. Using these transport services also depend on your personality, occasion and your pocket size amongst other factors.  In recent times especially, on demand motorbike hailing services have been the thirst and many reasons are involved. These include that the average individual may be unable to own a car due to cost of purchase and maintenance costs and that those who may have vehicles find issues in transporting themselves within heavily trafficked cities and as the case goes while beating time, stress, violence and rough situations.

The existence of these digital transport platforms has overnight proved itself to be worth it for every coin. However, there are negatives as well as positives. Most important is the question of how these digital transportation services manage contracts and service agreements with their clients (app users who book rides) and as well as the legal regulatory frameworks for their existence.  Proposed as the future of digital transport, these platforms operate with Application Software usually downloadable from mobile device stores such as the IOS and Android on the internet. Upon download, the user seeks to create accounts with these platforms, leading to the revelation of certain privacy information. How this information is handled is usually explained in the Privacy policy document of relative platforms.  This however is similar to signing a ground norm agreement as regards the use of the application, as with every transaction or booked ride, certain transaction and contract agreements may still bind. Nonetheless, for an attraction, many passengers or clients are given promo advantages and trip discounts which form the enticing part of the agreements. 
Digital Transport Services provide a solution to a myriad of transport challenges, particularly heavy traffic. The services offer flexible payment options including cash, card payment, and payment through the Applications that allows riders to access promotional offerings. Opportunities are also provided for operators and users in the less formal and informal sector to access the tools, training, skills and finance they need for a better life leveraging the use of mobile phones and technology, thus improving the quality of life of low-income families. These services also have the potential to create more tax paying jobs (through riders, staff and agents), easing the movement of people and goods, and boosting commerce and entrepreneurship.

The quality of services proposed by the Digital transport platforms revolve round many options. One of these is driver training and safety.  Several steps have been taken to ensure that riders are trained by safety professionals. Also, motorbikes come with pre-adjusted speed limits, usually between 60kmph-100kmph. The motorbikes too have unique tracking devices attached to them and are tracked online in real time, putting off the risks of crime such as kidnapping, theft, harassment and other possible crimes. This measure is a result of the skepticism of passengers to use of certain conditions of the platforms, for  example, the use of helmet. Furthermore, riders and passengers are covered by comprehensive insurance and have access to Customer support service.  Riders have access to healthcare too.

As regards the legal regulatory framework, it is not clear that the transport laws of Nigeria have accepted these digital transport services. In an attempt to identify the government policies in a place like Nigeria that helps local, homegrown transport and logistics startups better leverage technology to deliver value to consumers, it is hard to believe that of Google searches, motor park and conductor chats, LASTMA/FRSC and Ministry of Transport (MoT) conversations and Uber/Taxify/Gokada interviews, the Nigerian transport and logistics startups are all operating on some level of free for all. This is why amidst increased competition and operational issues flooding the digi-transport scene, the regulatory hurdles come in line too.  Where there is no conflict with existing transport organizations/bodies, tech-enabled road transport startups have very little regulatory oversight, especially from a safety and consumer satisfaction standpoint.

Just as every company registered for operations in Nigeria, these digital transport companies pay tax to the government. However, there also comes some union of transport workers who form a corporate organization for private vehicle owners. More specifically as a duty, they are seen as industry insiders who view and levy licensing fees by hassling through their union agents to have these digi-transport companies pay much as five times the original price of union dues, giving extortion. For starters, transportation and logistic operations in Nigeria are almost completely dominated by the private sector. This is same as the telecommunications sector but regulation makes this space sane. The NCC and its affiliate bodies have records of regulation and policies that have made the telecoms sector what it is at this time. Conversely, there is very little, if any, impactful regulation in the road transportation segment.

As they preach safety, convenience, and transparency, it is not enough to brand new quality bikes in company names, or train drivers with customer service policies, driving, navigation and hygiene (against bad labour practices), but much more to ensure that the lines between true transportation is drawn for the passenger and the company, considering existing transport laws and capital. There is a lot of potential and room for growth in the Nigerian road transport market and regulation cannot be ignored as one of the key drivers of the segments growth. By 2050, the UN predicts another 2.5 billion people will be living in urban areas globally and Nigeria is expected to add over 200 million people to its cities in the next 40 years, more than tripling the size of its current urban population. Transportation is an important segment that needs to be re-imagined given this rapid population and urbanisation growth.

2/Post a Comment/Comments

  1. Well said Brother. A few weeks behind, it for me thinking; What exactly is or would is be the future plan for transportation bearing in mind an addition in population.... This, I believe has to be put to a table for discuss.

    Alex Wesley.


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