The police in Lagos have arrested some members of the Professional E-hailing Drivers and Private Owners Association (PEDPA), the umbrella body of e-hailing ride companies including Uber and Bolt, who had embarked on an industrial action over the services rendered by the platforms.
Five drivers, including the president of PEDPA, Idris Shonuga, were arrested on Tuesday.
Speaking on the arrest, Kolawole Aina, the Regional Vice President PEDPA, South-west, said the drivers were picked up by the police at the National Stadium in Surulere while they were gathering for a peaceful march to Alausa.
Bolt and Uber drivers commenced strike on Monday to express their displeasure over the “unfavourable pricing” of the companies and its impact on their business.
Mr Shonuga, who listed the five-point demands of the drivers, had said the action would last for five days with a peaceful walk to the governor’s office slated to hold on Tuesday.
Although Bolt and Uber reacted to the strike by the drivers saying their pricing template is favourable and they are open to feedback from drivers, the drivers said they needed to press their demands further.
“We need to press home our demands, we need the government to intervene in the matter. The prices of the e-hailing companies are not favourable, they are killing our drivers,” Mr Shonuga said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Speaking on the arrest, Mr Aina said the members were arrested the moment they got to the National Stadium to wait for others.
“We have not even started the protest, they (our members) just got there and were waiting for us. It means the police were waiting for us, they didn’t even know what we were there for.
“People are agitating for something, the police are arresting them. We are complaining that people are dying, our people are getting lost, our investment is dying, we invest money, nothing to show it and we are working endlessly. The companies seem not to care,” he said.
Mr Aina explained that four members were arrested initially and when the president, Mr Shonuga, heard about it, ”he went to the police station to get his colleagues released and was also arrested”.
The arrested drivers are detained at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti Lagos.
“We heard that it was the Commissioner of Police that gave the order to arrest us, they are saying they are waiting for his order to release. It is the order we are waiting for since yesterday and their families are on our neck.
“I don’t know what we did that warrant detaining us. It seems the police are working with Uber and Bolt. Yesterday, we saw Uber staff here, today, we saw Bolt staff, what are they looking for?” he said.
Mr Aina said although they cannot confirm whether the e-hailing ride companies gave the police the go ahead to arrest them, ”their visits to the station is suspicious.”
Speaking on the arrest of the drivers, Muyiwa Adejobi, the police spokesperson said the drivers were arrested ”not because of the protest but because they blocked the road.”
“They demonstrated yesterday at Surulere, they used their vehicles and everything to block the road. When you have your protest, no matter how peaceful it is, by the time you block the road, no access, no thoroughfare for other people to use the road, you are causing fear and pandemonium and denying them of their rights too. That is why they were arrested,” Mr Adejobi said.
He said the arrested drivers are in custody as the “matter is still in.”
When asked whether they would be released anytime soon, Mr Adejobi said it is a bailable offence but the drivers would be charged to court.
“It is a bailable offence, they can go on bail but there is no how they won’t be charged to court, but just because the court is not working now.
“The fact is they were not just arrested for protest, after all, the lawyers, NBA and Judiciary workers protested and nobody arrested them. If they want to protest, they should always know that protest must be peaceful, ‘deprived’ of violence and violating other people’s right,” the police spokesperson said.