The government of Lagos state has warned consumers not to use two international ride-hailing services, the Russian-founded inDriver and Armenia-based Rida, saying that they were operating without a license. The government told residents of Nigeria’s largest city to “be wary of unlicensed e-hailing cab operators within the State as they pose security threats to the safety of lives and property.”

InDriver has been operating in Nigeria since 2019, but its drivers told Rest of World that they have recently come under scrutiny from officials. 

Olayinka Shakiru Olawole, a director at the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, told Rest of World that the ban was prompted by safety concerns, following reports of thefts and kidnappings by drivers and passengers on ride-hailing platforms, including those, such as Bolt, that have licenses to operate in Lagos. 

“We have to monitor [inDriver and Rida]; we need to check their activities,” Olawole, who oversees the regulation of ride-hailing services, said.

An inDriver spokesperson did not respond to specific questions about the government’s announcement but told Rest of World, “We are aware of this situation and the concerned department is working on it.” Rida officials could not be reached for comment.

“The inDriver platform is … a ghost platform. It doesn’t have a physical presence in Nigeria; there’s no office; they exist in the cloud, operating from a remote location.”

InDriver differentiates itself from other ride-hailing platforms by allowing customers and drivers to haggle over prices. At launch, the company claimed to have 6,000 drivers on its platform but has not released updated numbers. Local drivers told Rest of World that a lot of their colleagues have moved to the platform, including many that have been blocked from the market-leading platforms, Uber and Bolt, for violating the platforms’ rules, including harassment.

Habib, a Lagos-based driver who asked to be identified by only his first name, out of concern for his job, said that although inDriver is gradually gaining ground, he mostly uses it in the evening when he’s done for the day and sees a long-distance ride request to his neighborhood. But he complains that fares on inDriver are sometimes unattractive. “They give riders the ability to reduce the suggested price of a ride … and when you’re stuck in traffic, inDriver prices are fixed and don’t increase, no matter how long the traffic,” he said.

The company, which was founded in Siberia and now operates in more than 30 countries worldwide, is now headquartered in the U.S. 

“The inDriver platform is, I like to call it, a ghost platform. It doesn’t have a physical presence in Nigeria; there’s no office; they exist in the cloud, operating from a remote location,” said Daniel Arubayi, a Nigerian mobility industry researcher at Fairwork, a research institute based at Oxford University.

Olawole suggested that inDriver’s lack of a physical presence in Nigeria would be a factor in deciding whether the company would be able to get a license to operate. “They must write to the Ministry [of Transportation]; we’ll look into their proposal,” he said. “If [the proposal] is okay, we’ll call them for a meeting. After that, they’ll tell us where they have offices and officers for driver inspections.”

In recent years, Nigerian authorities have increased their scrutiny on international technology companies operating in the country, demanding that they set up operations locally. In January, Twitter consented to opening an office in Nigeria as part of an agreement that got the social media service unblocked after a seven-month ban.

Bolt and Uber maintain offices in Nigeria and have local staff. Rida’s website lists four cities where it operates but no office locations or contact details.

The Professional E-Hailing Drivers and Private-Owners Association (PEDPA), a local association of platform drivers, advised members to “desist from using unregistered applications not recognized by the Ministry of Transportation such as inDriver and Rida.”

Drivers told Rest of World that even before May’s announcement, city officials have been clamping down on inDriver for several months, issuing fines to drivers who police catch working for the platform. Olawole said that clampdown will intensify over the coming weeks.

In March, the Lagos state government launched its own ride-hailing service, LagosRide, a joint venture with the Chinese car company CIG Motors Co. The company, which has 1,000 vehicles in its fleet, has been recruiting drivers in a hire-purchase scheme, charging them 1.9 million naira ($4,575) each, as a down payment.