As the world continues to count its losses from the ravages of coronavirus, from life to economy, some businesses are getting badly hit. Though oil is taking the center stage for now, logistics and haulage are among those that have been brought to a near standstill.
In Nigeria, the story of logistics companies sound the same as their counterparts around the world. Kobo360, a notable name in the Nigerian logistics industry has cried out over the losses stemming from the effects of the pandemic.
Following the Federal Government of Nigeria’s lockdown order that has restricted movement in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States, the activities of logistics companies have been largely put to a halt. Kobo360 said about 3,000 of its trucks have been grounded and their services put on hold due to their unclarified place in the category of essentials.
The decision to ground the trucks has been mainly drivers’ who complain of incessant harassment by law enforcement agents. Kobo360 attributed the development to lack of clarification by the authorities as to what constitutes essential service.
Tayo Oyegunle, the VP Global Operations of Kobo360 told TechNext that the government failed to explain to the law enforcement what essential services entails and that has subjected the drivers to the oppression of policemen and other law enforcement agents on the roads.
“The government announced the cessation of movement – within this remit it stated that businesses involved in food and distribution are exempt. However, that does not seem to be clearly communicated to law enforcement or the fact that distribution vehicles may not necessarily be branded for them to be identified as essential goods, resulting in the drivers being stopped and at times being harassed,” he said.
Oyegunle said the situation has a ‘grey area’ owing to the unclear understanding of essential services which created a standoff between drivers and law enforcement officers. He said the right of movement depends on how it is interpreted, and the law enforcement agents have interpreted it wrongly, and it has subjected the drivers to harassment, forcing them out of the roads.
The situation has apparently resulted in loss of millions of dollars by the logistics company. Oyegunle said in an attempt to resolve the misunderstanding, the company has reached out to relevant authorities.
“Since the restrictions, we have written to arms of the Nigerian government stating the urgency in clarifying the announcement made on March 29 and to support the logistics industry with documentation for our drivers to give them the freedom to move within the country. This is a new territory for us all, but we’re willing to work with the government in order to ensure that we keep essential supplies moving,” he said.
The vice president noted that the drivers were being harassed because the trucks are not branded. And the company is trying to save the situation by providing the drivers with identity cards and other means of identification.
However, he said the company is not crying foul, that it has been the decision of the drivers to stop work. And if the measures the company is taking fail to remedy the situation, Kobo360 will stick to the decision of the drivers.
“3,000 of our trucks are parked. There is certainly no crying foul here and that is not a stance Kobo360 is taking. Our drivers are on the frontline, they are the ones who are facing these obstacles with law enforcement and have taken it upon themselves to stop transporting goods based on their experiences, knowing that they will be losing income. This has been communicated to us by our drivers, we have to support them and we have to get them back on the road to complete the distribution of essential goods,” Oyegunle said.
The excesses of law enforcement agents in the face of lockdown is rapidly escalating. Over 18 persons have been killed so far as the police try to save them from coronavirus by enforcing the stay at home order. The brutality thriving on impunity has become a norm that even road users are wary of; a reason Kobo360 wouldn’t urge their drivers to get onto the roads.
On the other hand, Kobo360 runs a Uber kind of haulage model that allows drivers to make their choices and protects their interest. Before now, many truck drivers in Nigeria face the challenge of handling their cash as they get paid after each trip. They always run into the ambush of armed robbers who lie in wait for their hard earned money.
Kobo360 has, however, developed a payment pattern that limits the amount of money in the driver’s hand to the barest minimum. 70 percent of their pay is wired into their bank accounts before their trip, leaving them with insignificant amounts that makes them less targets of armed robbers.
The model is believed to have endeared drivers to the company as it is seen as a gesture of goodwill.