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Hundreds of Taxi Drivers Protest Against Uber

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Hundreds of taxi drivers on Monday blocked downtown Warsaw in protest over a Polish draft law they see as favourable to ride-sharing app Uber as well as over US support for the American firm.

Traditional cab operators argue that the Uber app and others like it represent unfair competition because their drivers can dodge the rules and restrictions that regulate regular taxis.

“My current income is a third lower than two years ago” because of competition from Uber, Warsaw taxi driver Marek said, preferring not to give his last name.

“What we’re asking for is fairness: that all (cab operators) be required to be licenced, have a taximeter, that they all pay taxes in the countries where they work and social security contributions too, that they pass exams like us,” he told AFP.

The draft legislation, which would regulate the activity of ride-sharing firms and has already been approved by the government, notably states that a mobile telephone app can replace the taximeter.

The protesters blocked one of the Polish capital’s main streets, stopping before the prime minister’s office, then the US embassy and finally the ministry of entrepreneurship.

Their representatives notably denounced a letter sent to the Polish government by US ambassador to Warsaw Georgette Mosbacher.

According to portions of the letter leaked to the local media, Mosbacher allegedly threatened to freeze US investments in Poland if Uber were to encounter trouble in the EU member.

The cab drivers are notably calling on the Polish government to abandon the draft law and introduce a new law that would protect traditional taxi operators.

Some protesters tossed fake money in the air. The “uberdollar” banknotes were adorned with the likeness of Mosbacher.

The spokesman for the ministry of infrastructure, which prepared the transport draft law, called the cab driver protest unfounded, saying the legislation will ensure a level playing field for all cab operators.

(AFP)

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Man, Grandchildren Die of Suspected Food Poisoning in Imo

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A man, Moses Oguebuka, and two grandchildren, were on Tuesday found dead in Okwudor in the Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State.

The development, our correspondent learnt, caused tension in the community as the police took over the investigation.

A community source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the man and his grandchildren ate dinner together.

He said the bodies of Moses, who was a widower, and his eight and 11-year-old grandchildren had been evacuated by the police.

The source said, “Their lifeless bodies were found in a room in the morning. It was the man’s mistress, who had come to check on him, who found the corpses. She quickly raised the alarm, which attracted the villagers.

“We don’t know what actually happened, but food poisoning is suspected. The deceased ate dinner together and were found dead the next morning.”

The state Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Ladodo, confirmed the incident and said investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths had commenced.

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Price of Cooking Gas Soars as Supply Drops

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The drop in the supply of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, popularly known as cooking gas, to Lagos has led to an increase in the retail price of the commodity, raising fears of an imminent scarcity in the state and many parts of the country.

The Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers said last Wednesday that terminal owners had increased the price of 20 metric tonnes of the LPG by 33 per cent to N4.2m within five days.

NALPGAM said efforts to extract the cause of the sudden price increase from the terminal operators had not been successful.

The Nigeria LNG Limited, which is based in Port Harcourt, uses a vessel to deliver the LPG to Lagos at least twice in a month and buyers take the commodity to different parts of the country through trucks.

The company only delivers volumes to government-owned Northern Oil Jetty terminal and Navgas terminal, a private facility.

Our correspondent gathered that over 34 off-takers involved in the distribution of the NLNG’s volumes across the country received supply from the terminals.

But investigations revealed that the vessel only delivered the LPG volumes to Lagos once in October and no supply had been received this month as of the time of filing this report.

The Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers branch of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers said on Sunday that the reduction in supply had led to about 90 per cent increment in gas price within a space of one week.

“It is likely that this ugly situation will continue if there is no urgent intervention, especially as Christmas and New Year approach. Just a week ago, in Lagos and some neighbouring states, 12.5kg LPG was sold between N2,600 and N3,000 at retail outlets. It is now sold between N4,000 and N4,500 owing to the sudden hike in the price by tank farm operators,” the LPGAR said in a statement.

Last week, the NLNG, in a letter seen by our correspondent, explained to off-takers recent delays and disruptions to the Lagos delivery schedule.

It said deliveries to Lagos had progressed uninterrupted until August when the LPG vessel, ‘Navigator Capricorn’, loaded a cargo in Bonny and then experienced a suspected piracy attack en route to deliver the cargo to Lagos.

The spokesperson for the NLNG, Sophia Horsfall, in an emailed response to questions, told our correspondent on Friday that the company delivered 12,000MT to the Navgas terminal in Apapa, Lagos on October 15, 2019.

“Before then, we delivered a total of 32,050MT (three cargoes) in the month of September to Lagos. Our next delivery for about the 10th of November will be to NOJ terminal in Lagos. We typically deliver at least two cargoes of the LPG each month to Lagos via NOJ and Navgas terminals,” she said.

The LPGAR called on the Federal Government and other stakeholders to urgently intervene in order to restore sanity.

“The situation is already forcing many users to abandon their cylinders and opt for other sources of cooking energy such as firewood and saw dusk irrespective of the attendant health risks and resultant environmental degradation that results from those alternative energy sources,” it added.

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Lagos Begins Demolition of Burnt Building at Balogun Market

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The Lagos State Government has commenced the demolition of the five-storey building that was razed at the Balogun Market on the Lagos Island on Tuesday.

The demolition began after Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had visited the scene to commiserate with traders, who lost goods worth millions of naira to the inferno, which raged for about 23 hours.

According to the governor, the incident has brought to the fore the need for a total regeneration of the Lagos Island to prevent occurrences that can endanger the lives of the people.

According to him, the government will hold meetings with the owners of abandoned high-rise buildings in the area to fashion out better uses for such properties.

Sanwo-Olu said the government would conduct integrity test on all buildings in the Central Business District of the Lagos Island and revisit the master plan for the regeneration of the area.

Sanwo-Olu stated, “This fire incident presents discussion for a complete regeneration of the Lagos Island. Here, we have a lot of buildings as old as a century. Now is the time to look into the master plan for a complete regeneration of the entire area. All families must support our move to start the regeneration.

“We also have abandoned high-rise buildings on the island and we have done an audit of all these buildings. We need to have conversation with the owners on how we can put the abandoned properties to better use.

“There are a lot of traders, who wish to take their wares off the road and occupy these abandoned buildings. We need to talk to the owners and reach an agreement with them on a scheme that will make traders use the abandoned properties.

“I have summoned an emergency meeting with all local government chairmen. We cannot condone the reckless approach in which shops are allocated to people in a manner that is not coordinated. When problems arise, they come back to the state government. We will not fold our arms and wait for disasters like this to be repeated.”

The General Manager, Lagos Building Control Agency, Abiola Kosegbe, said the building suffered partial collapse, adding that the demolition had to be undertaken to avert disaster.

Kosegbe stated, “We had to do the needful; the fire is still raging and it is difficult for our officials to go too close. The inferno prevented us from doing all the necessary things.

“A part of the burning building has partially collapsed; everywhere in the building is still hot, so LASBCA, in conjunction with the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency had to go into the building, systematically bringing it down so that it will not cause other problems.”

The General Manager, LASEMA, Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said, “We are pulling it down for reconstruction and we will also subject the surrounding buildings to a structural test. The policeman, who was rescued from the rubble of the collapsed portion of the building, has died.”

The acting Head, Lagos State Fire Service, Margaret Adeseye, said the fire raged for 23 hours, adding that it started on the second floor, where the generators were kept.

“The building in the Balogun Market suffered a partial collapse on Tuesday around 9pm during the course of extinguishing the fire. The challenge that we had was that the area had narrow roads and the human population affected accessibility to the building. We finally extinguished the fire before the governor came around 10am on Wednesday,” she stated.

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