ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I traveled out of Lagos last Friday. At the departure lounge of MM2, while waiting to board a delayed Med-View flight to Abuja, two girls approached me. One was pint-sized and fair skinned. She talked too much. The other, dark skinned, appeared very shy. They came marketing Viko to me. Viko is a car hire service operating at both Lagos and Abuja airports. Their staffs wear orange shirts and black trousers and they have a stand beside Sulah Bureau de Change at the arrival hall of the airport in Abuja.
The two marketers made me an offer. They told me that if I booked for their service, I would be taken from the airport in Abuja, dropped off at my destination and also be picked up whenever I want to leave so long as I give the company 24 hours prior notice. That was enticing for N5000 only. After several questions, backed by doubt, I booked for the service. I wanted to pay but was told that I could only pay in Abuja when I had been dropped off at my destination. Convinced by their sincerity, I picked the Viko ticket. Deal was sealed. I also supplied my data which was relayed to Abuja airport office of Viko. A short while later, another lady, obviously a senior staff of Viko, approached me to say the cost of service was wrongly communicated. She said taking me to and from my destination, Kubwa, was N7000 and not N5000. She explained that N5000 was the cost for drop off and pick up to Abuja town. I obliged her.
On landing in Abuja, I walked over to the Viko stand and asked further questions about drop off and pick up. Again, the attendants confirmed it was part of the service on offer. They also said drop off and pick up from Kubwa was fixed at N7000. Then I showed the ticket I was given in Lagos. My booking was confirmed on the Viko manifest. I was then given a ticket with number 35765. I drew money to pay but was told that I could pay only to the driver after I had been dropped off. I was also instructed on how to inform the company of my departure plans. Every detail was to be sent to 08176620516, at least 24 hours before pick up. I was also assigned an agent who escorted me to Viko taxi stand at the airport’s car park. There, I was assigned a driver who took me in a silver-coloured Toyota car. We got chatting in the car. He re-assured me that I would be picked up from Kubwa so long as I informed the company ahead of departure time. I paid him N7000 (unreceipted) at Kubwa as he dropped me off. At this point, I did not know I was set up for fraud I realized later that behind the façade of service was fraudulent intent to steal from unsuspecting clients. I was billed to leave Kubwa on Sunday morning. So, at exactly 11.23am on Saturday, I sent an sms, in the format I was instructed, to 08176620516, indicating when and where I wanted to be picked up in Kubwa on Sunday. At 11.28am, a call came through to me from 08176620156. A lady on the phone introduced herself as calling from Viko. She confirmed receiving my pick up details but said Viko will not come to pick me from Kubwa. I asked to know why; she simply said “we don’t pick people from Kubwa. We only pick from Gwarinpa. If you want us to pick you up, you have to wait for us at Gwarinpa”. I reminded her that that was not part of the bargain. She said there was nothing Viko could do about it. I asked if they would make a refund, she said “we don’t make refunds”. Then, she hung the phone.
Embarrassed, I did an internet search and found telephone numbers of Viko office in Lagos. I put a call through. A lady who gave her name as Genevieve answered. I laid out my complaints. She said she won’t be able to address the issue. She promptly gave me another number to call. I did. Another lady responded. She gave her name as Ada and introduced herself as the supervisor in Lagos. When I laid my complaint, she said indeed, the company won’t come to pick me up from Kubwa. I relayed what I was told both at Lagos and Abuja airports desks of Viko. I also asked if I would get a refund, she straightaway said “no”. I asked what next, she said “Go to Gwarinpa and wait for us”. Ada also sounded so busy saying she had about 10 similar complaints to address. She however promised to get back to me. As you read this. She hasn’t.
I got myself over to the airport in Abuja on Sunday morning about 9am. Then, a call came in. The lady at the other end introduced herself as calling from Viko. She confirmed they received my departure notice but again said Viko will not come for pick up from Kubwa. I asked why, and she said “we don’t go to Kubwa”. I reminded her I was dropped off at Kubwa on Friday. She said “well. You have to go to Gwarinpa”. At this point, someone took the phone from her. He introduced himself as Kalu. He said he is Viko manager in Abuja. When I explained to him what had transpired, he changed the argument. He said the pickup was not part of the N7000 I paid but a free service Viko offers, enjoyed at the convenience of the company. Unbelievable! Kalu struggled to manufacture excuses for Viko’s breach of contract. He prevaricated from petrol scarcity to convenience and then to the bizarre argument that Kubwa is not part of Abuja metropolis. I asked if he was ready to make a refund for the second part of the contract that was not consummated; he said “we don’t make refunds”.
I told him that I would seek legal redress and also make this a media thing. He must have smiled at the threat as he said “if you like go and report to Chidoka (the aviation minster). If you don’t have his number I will give you”. I told him he would be quoted as having said that and he replied “it does not matter. Even if you want to report to Buhari, l will give you his number”. Imagine if a foreigner was so screwed? And you have the manager telling you that even the minister won’t lift a finger, not even Buhari. Kalu says by his action that Chidoka is either part of this fraud and benefits from it or that he is aware but would rather look elsewhere. Ada confirmed that 10 other persons had similar cases. Yet, Viko maintains a visible presence at the Lagos and Abuja airports, with permission to defraud travellers. Terrible!