Could it be the most Nigerian thing to happen to Uber? A strike action barely one year after going live in Abuja.

Abuja is the capital city of Nigeria. It is where the presidential villa, Aso Rock is situated. Rich politicians, expatriates and generally buoyant people live in Abuja. Interestingly, transportation is not half as expensive in Abuja as it is in Lagos; the commercial hub of Nigeria. A taxi driver would charge N300 in Abuja matter-of-factly, but in Lagos, you would get a good cursing for even thinking it. So, based on this backdrop – transportation not being a problem in Abuja; a place filled with rich snobbish folk – we further project.

Strike actions in Nigeria are not new. Doctors strike, teachers strike, one state governor at some point even said he was on a solidarity strike with workers in his state. Why then does it come as a surprise that a mobile app and its users/partners got into a squabble and a strike was the resultant ‘solution’?

An Uber partner, on grounds of anonymity shared a number of challenges they were facing as Uber partners with us. From complaints of unfriendly customer service from Uber staff to unresponsiveness towards expectations every partner had upon signing up to the platform. Issues around the tests conducted for potential drivers also have come under criticism with rumours of cheating and bribery. Staff members cornering ‘New Rider Bonuses’, so users who showed up and registered with a referral code would be told they didn’t register properly, staff then inserts their own referral codes. Safety was another concern our source shared. Drivers were being assaulted and robberies were rampant as a result of Uber’s weak verification process.

Other issues raised were an increase in the sharing formula between partner, driver and Uber from 20% to 25%, a 4x price surge as a result of fewer drivers online versus more riders, base fare increase from N220 to N300, airport fare increase from N3000 to N4000, rounding up of fares to the nearest N50, etc.

After initially meeting with Uber to air these issues, the focus was on building the platform but after one too many reports, it was agreed between Uber and its partners that a monthly meeting would be planned to sort it all out. Somehow no meeting was held since between July – August this year. Reportedly, partners came together on October 2nd and drafted a mail which about 100 partners sent individually to Uber, requesting for a(nother) meeting. The response was that each partner filled a form by October 23rd and a date would be communicated for the meeting. The forms were said to be filled by many of the partners and once some of them submitted, Uber disabled the support address.

Last week, almost 200 partners sent reminders of the meeting whose date had not been communicated still via the country website.

“Dear Uber Partner Support,

This is a follow up email on our request for a meeting. 

… Given the lack of feedback from you, we (a large group of Abuja partners) have decided to make some adjustments. The economic changes we are experiencing has made some trips quite unprofitable if not impracticable…

Partners have decided that starting Monday 31st October, 2016, trips to and from the airport will not be Completed. We have instructed all Drivers to accept trips and upon confirming destination as the airport immediately cancel such trips. It is our hope that this would be addressed in an efficient manner. Kind regards.”

Then a reply came.

“Dear ******,

We successfully partner with independent operators who voluntarily provide transportation services to riders on the Uber platform. Uber succeeds when our partners succeed, so our teams are working hard everyday to find even more ways for driver-partners on the Uber platform to thrive. We respect everyone has a voice and a choice, but acts of intimidation to partner-drivers or riders will not be tolerated. We have unfortunately received reports of such acts of intimidation. Uber is committed to the safety of everyone who uses the app and we will NOT tolerate any acts of intimidation against any driver-partners or riders. As per our deactivation policy any partner-driver who is involved in such an act will have their account deactivated and their relationship with Uber will permanently come to an end. We are always more than happy to speak to our partners individually. To book an appointment please visit Regards,

Team Uber”.

Things degenerated and some drivers were deactivated and thus decided to drive in a convoy to the Uber office in Maitama. Upon seeing the convoy of hundreds of cars, Uber staff reportedly fled, called the police and right now there are no Uber rides available on the app up in the FCT.

All the while I was thinking; how did the partners arrive at a strike then, and looking at Abuja, a ‘noble’ place, wasn’t simply deleting your account as a driver an option? In technology, who bears the brunt of unfulfilled promises?

**At the time of publishing this report, Uber Nigeria was yet to respond to my inquiry. Will post updates if there are any.