The Lagos government has started seizing Uber and Moove cars for not granting database access.

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The Lagos State Ministry of Transportation has reportedly started impounding vehicles belonging to e-hailing drivers operating on the Uber app. 

According to people close to the matter, the latest clampdown is due to the e-hailing company’s refusal to integrate its API with the state government’s so that they may have access to the company’s database which includes information about drivers and riders alike.

Moove vehicles are particularly targeted because they are unique and it is common knowledge that they all operate on the Uber platform. According to drivers whose vehicles were impounded, the ministry adopted a Gestapo-styled tactic to lure them. One of the victims explained that the MOT officials operated by ordering rides on the Uber platform only to set upon the drivers who accepted the rides, deflate their tyres and impound their vehicles.

According to Sunday, a Moove driver whose vehicle has been impounded:

I came to Alausa to drop a passenger, and somebody ordered me. Thinking that it was a passenger, they tricked me into a compound, and before I knew what was happening they took the keys from me and deflated my tyres. I asked them what’s the problem and they said Uber has a problem with the government.

The story was further corroborated by the PRO of the Lagos State chapter of the Amalgamated Union of App-based Transporters of Nigeria (AUATON), Comrade Iwindoye Steven. Comrade Steven, in a statement, said the Lagos State government, through the Ministry of Transportation (MOT), has initiated enforcement actions against the company.

According to the statement, the action is due to the company’s refusal to provide API integration to the Lagos government from their users. The PRO also advised his comrades to ditch the company’s app until the issues between the company and the government are resolved.

“Despite multiple letters sent by the government, Uber has not complied, leading to the decision to enforce the arrest of Uber app users. As a responsible union, we aim to protect our members from the subjugation of this app company and the Lagos government. Therefore, we recommend temporarily ceasing the use of the Uber app,” the statement said.

Database access: is Uber breaking any law?

It appears Uber is breaking the laws of Lagos State by its reported failure to grant the Ministry of Transportation access to its database via an API integration. This is because such a refusal contravenes the provisions of the Lagos State taxi-hailing regulation which mandates every taxi-hailing company to do so.

Section 4.1 item x  of the said regulation states that “all operators of e-hailing taxi services MUST give the ministry access to their database.” In light of that, Uber must contact the ministry to resolve the current impasse before it degenerates further.

Unfortunately, drivers, or driver-partners, as the companies like to call them, are bearing the direct brunt of the government’s clampdown. No fewer than a dozen drivers already have their vehicles impounded by the ministry. And the drivers, who mostly want to go about their normal business, are ruing their losses.

“If Uber has a problem with the government, we drivers are not supposed to be affected. I’m not an Uber staff, I don’t work for Uber. I only use their app. So it’s surprising to me now that my vehicle is impounded, my tyres deflated, and nobody could explain the reason this thing is happening to me,” Sunday said.

Uber’s recent travails in Nigeria

In Nigeria, Uber seems to be finding itself in difficult situations with city authorities lately.

Recently, Technext reported that the company might lose its license to operate in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja due to its failure to secure operating licences from the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) through its Transport Secretary.

The FCTA revealed that only two ride-hailing companies have been approved to operate exclusively in the city. The companies are Estonian ride-hailing giant, Bolt, and Nairaxi, an indigenous mobility startup that won the innovator’s competition organized by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) held February 2023.

Now, the ride-hailing giant, which recently backed Moove in a mega fundraising round, has another scuffle to resolve with the government authorities in its biggest African market, Lagos.