From driving career to pig farming, how subsidy removal pushes e-hailing drivers to other businesses

The profitability of e-hailing business in Nigeria has continued to suffer a suffocating decline since the pronouncement of fuel subsidy removal that snowballed into astronomical price of fuel pump.

Untill the disruptive decision made by president Bola Ahmed Tinubu on May 29 2023, drivers in this category of transport business usually smiled to the bank at the end of every week after they must have worked tirelessly to meet a set daily target.

But today, what used to be a treasure of testimony for these drivers has become a tale that constantly leaves a bitter taste in its trail whenever they have reason to tell their stories.

Apart from the frightening challenges imposed by the pump price, drivers are now in a desperate hunt for passengers so as to account for their heavy investment in fuel at the end of the day.

This development has left many of them with lamentations, frustration and consideration of another means of surviving the trying times especially those who have no other source of livelihood aside the e-hailing business.

Odunayo, a Bolt driver while speaking with Marketing Edge lamented how difficult the situation has been with him since the removal of fuel subsidy.

“This is what I’ve been doing to feed my family and send my kids to school. I have a daughter in boarding school and two other children in private school and I was conviniently sponsoring them until fuel subsidy was removed. Presently, I struggle to recover my fuel money and in most cases, I don’t make the money I spend on fuel before I return home in the night. ” I’m currently looking for other thing to do to survive. I’m done with this business already.” He said.

Anthony David is another victim of circumstances inflicted by petrol subsidy removal. The Uber driver has put his car up for sale with the hope of delving into another profitable venture if he successfully sells what used to be his ‘pot of soup’. He believes that the only way to escape the spectre of frustration currently tormenting the transport business is to sell off his car and get himself engaged in something else that can put food on his table.

For Damola, it is a different story entirely. The university graduate recounted how difficult it is to get passengers this days because of the slight adjustment in the trip fare.

“Before now, if I parked my car and put on the app in a busy area, I would get a request in less than five minutes. But it is no longer business as usual. There are times I spend over an hour without getting a single order. And the funniest part of it is that when an order comes, it will be a short trip that will not even compensate for the fuel I burned to the location. Until I have another choice, I will continue to push harder in the business. But I honestly wish I had another alternative.” He lamented.

Niran Adedigba on his part claimed that he had sold his car and ventured into pig farming. According to him, the high cost of fueling his car has created a major setback in making a reasonable profit from the business.

“I’m a family man with three kids. Until the removal of fuel subsidy, I usually make a contribution of 5000 naira per day. But right now, I can’t do 1,000 naira contribution no matter the lenght of time I work in a day. Passengers are even scared to make a request because of the charges. Almost everything we make is spent on fuel with nothing left to maintain the car after the e-hailing companies must have deducted their commission. So, I decided to get myself engaged in something else rather than wasting my time on unproductive venture.

Asked how he was able to raise money to do another business, Niran explained that he sold his car and used part of the proceed to begin a pig farm in Oke-Aro area of Ogun State.

Interestingly, some drivers who could not think of other business to do have decided to hug the challenge with a tinge of criminality, robbing their passengers right inside their vehicle after accepting their request.

Recently, one Adeniran Jeremiah, a 29-year old e-hailing driver was paraded by Lagos State police command for allegedly robbing his female passenger. The accounting graduate of Lagos State University was apprehended at a shop where he was purchasing an item in Ikotun after being identified by one of his victims.

Speaking to newsmen at the command headquarters while he was being paraded, the Rida driver confessed that it was the removal of fuel subsidy that pushed him into robbing his passengers after accepting their orders.

As laughable as his reason for going into robbery appears, Jeremiah’s confession is however a confirmation of the economic realities that have hit the business sector and the intense pressure drivers are made to face, in the name of eking out their daily living through the business.

While the industry continues to oscillate in the turbulence of subsidy removal, some e-hailing companies are moving to beat the headwind by coming up with strategies that will reduce the pressure on their drivers, boost their confidence and keep them on the platform.

Recently, Bolt announced that it will be opening up economy category for drivers with a view to enabling them receive orders from both the Economy and Bolt category riders.

The announcement was contained in a short message service (SMS) sent to drivers, noting that the move was necessary in the face of harsh economic realities that have seen a decline in the number of orders received by the platform. The company attributed the reason for its decision to fuel subsidy removal, the hike in fuel price that followed, and the attendant increase in fares in the wake of that.

“To keep your earnings high while attracting more riders back to the platform, we’ll be opening up the Economy category to more top-performing drivers like yourself. This means you’ll now be able to receive ride requests from both the Economy and Bolt category riders,” the company said in the message to its drivers.

Also, the company revealed that the initiative which had come into effect since September 15 was undertaken to achieve three objectives: enhancing rider options; boosting drivers’ order volume; and fostering increased earnings for drivers.

Describing it as a unique earning opportunity, the app company said drivers will have the chance to drive across both the Bolt category (its base ride type) and the Economy category (the more affordable option).

“Drivers on our platform have always had the option to switch between categories such as the Corporate and Bolt in Lagos. However, we are now allowing drivers to accept trips in the Economy category. The drivers will see the commissions paid to the platform slashed by half, as Bolt will be accepting just 10% of the fares.”

As juicy as this offer may appear, what however remains uncertained is the possibility of the initiative to lure drivers who have already left the business or those who are wallowing in a web of frustration back to the platform.

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Seun Akin

Seun Johnson is a professional journalist and proficient media strategist with over 10 years of consistent work experience. He is Verse in content creation and versatile in editorial administration with a deep knowledge in digital, print and broadcast journalism.

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