Drivers, Uber speak on ‘unclear’ new regulations on ride-hailing services in Lagos

The new regulations for ride-hailing operators in Lagos State are getting no love from the people whose activities they aim to regulate.

The regulations will come into effect on August 20; regulations the government said were necessary to reduce security risks, improve safety and curb flagrant flouting of existing traffic laws.

“The flagrant disobedience to road traffic rules and regulations by the drivers is unacceptable and all necessary steps must be taken to bring safety, sanity, standard and security back to the operation of the Business,” the government said in the guidelines.

“There is need to introduce accreditation scheme/registration that will have all the necessary and significant data of operators, drivers and the number of registered Taxi details of which will include the route and tag numbers. This exercise will go a long way to curb the excesses of the operators and drivers in the State.”

An operator and a representative of the drivers, however, told The Guardian on Tuesday that the provisions need fine-tuning.uber

Ayoade Ibrahim, the president of the National Union of Professional App-Based Workers, said in an interview on Tuesday that the regulations do not take cognisance of the operational challenges the drivers face.

The major problem we have with the new regulations is the 10 per cent the government said they will charge on the commission we pay to the e-hailing companies,” Ibrahim said. “That clause is not clear to us.”

However, the section of the guidelines that mentions the deduction of 10 per cent on each transaction carried out on e-hailing platforms does not state in clear terms if the deduction will be made on the commissions paid by drivers to operators such as Bolt and Uber.

Section 4.1 (v) of the new guidelines says: “All operators of e-Hailing Taxi Services must pay the State Government 10% Service tax on each transaction paid by the passengers to the operators.”

Ibrahim feared operators will hike the percentage of the commission charged on each trip if the government taxes the commission paid by the drivers to the ride-hailing companies.

Apart from having to pay a ₦25 million licence fee and ₦10 million annually for the renewal of such licence, a provision like the service tax deduction is problematic for operators.

Although Uber, in an emailed statement, did not single out any part of the guidelines for condemnation, the ride-hailing giant said it was still studying how the new regulations will impact its operations and “network of driver-partners” in the state.

Emails sent to the West Africa regional manager of Bolt were not replied.

“The current proposed regulations are inconsistent and unclear,” a spokesperson for Uber said on Tuesday.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation, Bolanle Ogunlola, was mum when asked about Uber’s comment on the guidelines.
The not-so-new new guidelines
A source told The Guardian in February that the state government was due to effect a set of guidelines for the operations of ride-hailing and taxi services from March 1.

Those guidelines did not come into effect on the said date.

Ibrahim insisted the guidelines, which he described as “out-dated,” are the same ones that will be operational from August 20 and that they were already drafted long before the Lagos State Government started inviting the drivers for meetings.

The information received by The Guardian in February checks out with some parts of the new guidelines, especially the part on the licence and renewal fees..

Ibrahim said the inputs the drivers gave during those meetings were discarded. Four drivers who spoke with The Guardian on Monday corroborated the union leader.

“These regulations will not help our business,” Segun Adeola, a driver, told The Guardian. “The government does not think about how we fuel our and maintain our cars.”

Like Ibrahim, Uber believed the new regulations should not be anachronistic.

“We have always been willing to engage with governments on regulations to ensure our operations align with best practices locally and internationally, as we believe regulations need to support innovative technology ideas that fit 21st-century businesses,” a Uber spokesperson said.

Key parts of the guidelines
While the drivers are vexed by the service tax, there are other key parts of the guidelines that may prove contentious when the implementation starts.

For instance, Section 3.11 of the guideline states that vehicles to be used as “taxicab” in the state must be “brand new”. Alternatively, such vehicles “must be within the first three (3) years of its manufacture as specified by the manufacturer.”

The vehicles are also to be subjected to special taxicab inspection protocol and must be submitted to the Ministry of Transportation once a year for inspection.

The taxicabs are also to be fitted with government-approved tags – in line with Section 16 of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, which prohibits the use of unmarked vehicles for taxis in the states – and taximeters.

Ride-hailing companies are mandated to grant the state government access to their database. Drivers who are on those ride-hailing platforms must also be literate, certified annually by Lagos State Drivers’ Institute and have Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) Card and driver’s badge.

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My wife frequently beats me – Divorce-seeking husband tells court

An electronic trader, Gbade Olaniyi, on Wednesday petitioned an Ile-Tuntun Customary Court in Ibadan to dissolved his seven year-old marriage to wife, Olubunmi, because she frequently beats him.

Testifying, Olaniyi said:”my wife has emasculated me. She has sent my friends and family away.

“Anytime we have minor misunderstanding, she gives me dirty slaps. In fact, she slapped me on Sunday Aug. 2, 10 days ago and tore my skin with her fingernails.

“She said she did it I did not tell her where I went when she asked me. She has neglected her role as a wife because she leaves home for days and even months for no reason,” he said.

Olubunmi consented to the divorce prayer.

“My lord, my husband has turned me into pauper. Our children don’t even have good clothes to wear.

“I sometimes leave the home because he never took care of me during pregnancy.

“I slapped him because he sleeps with a certain young girl named Shukurat in our house and the secret leaked to me.

“I got to know when Shukurat’s aunt attacked him in my presence. I also have evidence of the love messages and credit cards sent by my husband to the girl and how they have been going to the hotel together,” Olubunmi explained.

Chief Henry Agbaje, the court’s President, held that the evidence provided by the two were not sufficient enough and therefore requested them to furnish the court with more.

He also ordered them to bring their relatives and adjourned the case until Aug. 19 for judgment.


Buhari, Governors call for joint strategy to end conflicts

President Muhammadu Buhari PHOTO: Twitter

President Muhammadu Buhari and State Governors on Tuesday ended their meeting on the state of the nation’s security with call for a joint strategy to bring various conflicts to an end within time limits.

They also called on field commanders to take measures to protect civilian communities as a confidence-building mechanism between the military and those communities.

Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, in a statement in Abuja said Buhari and governors made their feelings known at the end of the virtual meeting coordinated from the State House, Abuja.

The president and the governors believed that ”when the trust that has been lost between both parties is re-established, there would be improved cooperation in intelligence-gathering and sharing.”

The presidential aide revealed that the meeting also agreed that poverty and youth unemployment were at the root of the nation wide security challenges, and needed to be addressed with greater vigour by all tiers of government.

Shehu said the meeting also focused on the country’s security policies and approaches in tackling the internal security challenges with a charge that intelligence-gathering and sharing must be optimised.

”The President used the opportunity to dispel commonly held assumptions that the terrorists in the Northeast had far more weapons and money than the government, stressing that what is left of them are “mere scavengers desperate for food, raiding shops and markets, and killing innocent persons in the process.”

Buhari also expressed concern that in spite of the fact that borders with neighbouring countries had been shut, bandits and terrorists continued to have access to small weapons.

“These terrorists are in the localities. How is it that they are not short of small arms?” he queried the security and intelligence chiefs.

He said: “We have said enough on the need for them to rejig their operations. I am glad that there is better synergy and cooperation which are very important.

”I have directed the Service Chiefs to meet among themselves in-between the National Security Council meetings.

”The services have resources; yes, they need more, and mobility, and are doing their best, but there is a need for better gathering and interpretation of intelligence. Our intelligence-gathering must be improved.”

The President informed the governors of the imminent shipment of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States.

He, therefore, asked for patience on the part of the public because the new weapons and aircraft must be manned by trained fighters and pilots who must first receive appropriate training.

Buhari also expressed satisfaction with the level of support from neighbouring countries in the war against terrorism.

“They are cooperating with us. On Boko Haram, we are making progress with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon,” he said.

He, however, restated that intelligence-gathering must improve to be able to track small arms in the Northwest, North Central and Northeast States.

The President also expressed satisfaction with the level of Naval activity in the Gulf of Guinea, using newly-acquired equipment.

The president, however, demanded that hard-to-reach areas of Lake Chad where Boko Haram terrorists have found new havens, as well as the forests now inhabited by bandits, must be accessed and rid of nefarious elements.

“The Chief of Defence Staff has spoken about their study of the forests and their potential danger to security. We must make sure we follow the bandits and terrorists, but there must not be deforestation in view of the climate situation,” said Buhari.

In their submissions anchored by their Chairman, Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, the governors highlighted the problems of poverty, unemployment, the trust deficit between the military and civilian populations and the inflow of small arms into the country.

The governors also pointed to the problem of coordination among military and security chiefs and played up their own security roles which included one billion dollars they allowed the President to withdraw from the Excess Crude Account for weapons procurement two years ago.

They, therefore, urged the President to consider a “bail out” for security for the States in view of the enormity of the resources they now expend in support of the military and the police.

The three-hour meeting was attended by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, heads of defence, security and intelligence agencies, and members of the Security Committee of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum represented by one governor from each of the six geo-political zones.


COVID-19: NCDC confirms 423 new cases in Nigeria

NCDC Response Team PHOTO: Twitter

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control(NCDC) has on announced 423 fresh cases of the COVID-19 in the country.

The NCDC, which made this known on its official twitter handle on Tuesday, also said six deaths were recorded in the country.

The health agency said that the new cases were spread across 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

According to the NCDC, the new cases take the country’s total tally to 47,290.

It, however, added that out of the number, 33,609 patients were discharged while 956 died.

The NCDC said that Lagos, the country’s pandemic epicentre, witnessed 117 new cases followed by the FCT with 40 cases, while Ondo and Rivers states recorded 35 and 28 cases respectively.

It stated that Osun recorded 24 more cases, Benue, 21, Abia, 19, Ogun, 19, Ebonyi, 18, Delta and Kwara, 17 each while Kaduna and Anambra recorded 15 and 14 cases respectively.

Among other states with new cases were Ekiti, 11, Kano, 9, Imo, 6, Gombe, 4, Oyo, 3, Bauchi, 1, Edo 1 and Nasarawa, 1.

The health agency said that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) activated at Level 3 had continued to coordinate the national response activities across the country.

Meanwhile, the NCDC advised Nigerians that the ease of the lockdown did not mean that the COVID-19 outbreak was over.

“Please #TakeResponsibility as guidelines are updated to protect yourself and loved ones by: Wearing a mask, Adherence to guidelines in public spaces.

” Avoiding bars/clubs, gyms, cinemas and event centres,” it tweeted.

The health agency also called on Nigerians to engage in the #MaskOnNaija campaign.

According to NCDC, a face mask is a personal item and must not be shared.

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Safety concerns as Russia approves ‘world’s first’ COVID-19 vaccine

This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Handout / Russian Direct Investment Fund / AFP

• Vaccine fails WHO’s three-phase test
• It’s not recommended for Nigeria, experts warn
• US hands over 200 ventilators to Nigeria

Skepticism, yesterday, greeted the announcement by Russia that it had approved ‘‘world’s first’’ vaccine for COVID-19.

Russia announced the approval after carrying out Phases I and II clinical trials but had yet to conduct the mandatory third phase. The announcement came as the United States of America donated 200 ventilators to Nigeria to boost the fight against COVID-19.

New York Times yesterday reported that the Russian scientific body that developed the vaccine, the Gamaleya Institute, had yet to conduct Phase III tests on tens of thousands of volunteers in highly-controlled trials, a process seen as the only method of ensuring a vaccine is actually safe and effective. Around the world, more than 30 vaccines out of a total of more than 165 under development are now in various stages of human trials.

World Health Organisation maintains a comprehensive list of worldwide vaccine trials. In the latest version of the list, there is no Russian Phase III trial.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, while making the declaration yesterday, claimed a Russian health-care regulator had become the first in the world to approve a vaccine for coronavirus, though the vaccine had yet to complete clinical trials.

The Moscow pronouncement has, however, raised international concerns, accusing Moscow of cutting corners to score political points.

Medical experts, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, said the extraordinary pace with which the Russian government approved the vaccine for use was a cause for concern.

They said Phase 3 clinical trial (large study) that should involve thousands of people had yet to be concluded as it only started on June 1. The experts said Phase 3 clinical trial was needed to prove efficacy and safety and would eliminate bias when interpreting results.

Medical experts said they would not recommend the vaccine for Nigeria as it was fast-tracked and also because Russia had not shared or released data concerning the development and studies around the vaccine. They, however, said safety concerns notwithstanding, it showed there was hope that COVID-19 vaccine would be available to Nigerians in the near future.

According to WHO, vaccines should go through three stages of human testing before getting approval for widespread use. The first two phases test the vaccine on relatively small groups of people to find if it will cause harm and if it stimulates the immune system. The last phase, known as Phase 3, compares the vaccine to a placebo in thousands of people.

The final third phase is the only way to know with statistical certainty whether a vaccine prevents an infection. And because it is carried on a much larger group of people, Phase 3 trial can also pick up more subtle side effects of a vaccine that earlier trials could not.

Consultant public health physician/epidemiologist, member of Lagos State COVID-19 Response Team and former chief medical director of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Osibogun, told The Guardian: “You need first to confirm if a clinical trial was conducted. If one was conducted, there are guidelines under which a clinical trial can be terminated. One condition is when you have obtained evidence that is so overwhelming that it will no longer be ethical to withhold a substance or treatment modality that has been found to be beneficial.

“Some years ago, during the polio vaccine trial, the study was terminated when overwhelming evidence showed its effectiveness. Investigative journalism is required to find out more about what the Russians have done precisely before praising or condemning them.”

A professor of virology, Chairman Expert Review Committee on COVID-19 and pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer’s University, Oyewale Tomori, said: “A safe and efficacious vaccine is, of course, what we need now. It will be a breakthrough of monumental magnitude. However, what we need now is a breakthrough, not a break loose. Russia says, so far, the vaccine is efficacious and we have no way of confirming that. Until we have that confirmation, it will not be safe to touch the vaccine.”

Tomori, however, said the western press has been sometime unduly critical. “Russia did say she had yet to run the phase three trial and also says mass vaccination will not start until October, so we wait and see. On the issue of rushing the clinical trials, is that not what the others are doing? If Russians are rushing faster than the others, did Yuri Gagarin not get into space before any other person? But the American got to the moon first. So, the issue is not the finishing but successfully completing the processes of clinical trials. Who does that first and shows prove of a safe and efficacious vaccine will win the race,” he said.

Tomori, who is also a consultant with WHO, said safety concerns were many, especially if clinical trial studies were not complete.

“Questions to be answered are: is the vaccine safe, doing no harm and not having or causing adverse effects, especially irreversible adverse effects? Is it efficacious and offers durable protection against the disease,” he asked.

The virologist said many questions could only be answered through clinical trials involving hundreds of people of different age groups and conditions; and this requires appropriate time and adequate number of people.

Tomori said Nigeria should actually participate in these clinical trials but “you know we are not as courageous, preferring not to venture but to consume the remains and leftovers of other courageous people.”

A public health specialist and Executive Director (ED)/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, told The Guardian any vaccine that had gone through the three phases of clinical trial and obtained licensure would be a welcome development for the COVID-19 pandemic. Shuaib said an approved vaccine would be an unprecedented opportunity to protect the world against the deadly COVID-19.
“It would particularly be of benefit to the most vulnerable and those at highest risk of contracting the virus, like the frontline health workers,” he said.

NPHCDA is in charge of procurement and administering of vaccines in Nigeria, especially against childhood killer diseases.

The epidemiologist emphasized that any vaccine would be tested as stipulated by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). “The COVID-19 vaccine would not be an exception. If anything, we would expect a higher degree of scrutiny to ensure data from the trials unequivocally shows the vaccine is fit for use. Besides that, NPHCDA will collaborate with NAFDAC to ensure the vaccine is safe for use by Nigerians. So we must safeguard the health and interests of Nigerians. This is a priority that is not negotiable,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United States Government has handed over 200 ventilators to Nigeria as promised by President Donald Trump to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. also applauded Nigeria for her prompt action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and urged the country to sustain the effort as an example for other African nations to follow.

While presenting the ventilators to government at the Abuja premier medical warehouse, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Bert Leonardo, observed that the donation and other assistance by America over the years signified strong cooperation between Nigeria and the United States.

Leonardo noted that since the pandemic began, the United States had provided Nigeria with more than $54 million in COVID-19 assistance and would continue to support Nigeria’s prevention and response efforts, both now and in the future.

Receiving the items, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the equipment would support Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19.