Change, Randoms

Murdered Jumia Agent: Matters Arising

Optimistic humanists may disagree but I think humans would never be able to end evil. Even setting aside religious explanations, there is something about humans that makes us seem capable of unimaginable evils, no matter how hard we try to brand humanity as a good species. The best strategy is not unwise whitewashing of evil, but implementing plans that aim to mitigate the possibility of an evil person being successful at evil. We need to raise the entry requirements for evil.

I beg your pardon if the introductory paragraph seemed overtly philosophical. At best, I can only lay claim to being a faux philosopher. However, that is irrelevant in this matter. The issue at hand is the murder of a delivery personnel who went to deliver some goods ordered via Jumia, arguably Nigeria’s most popular online marketplace. Jumia has released a statement saying that the victim was not a Jumia staff, but was “employed by one of Jumia’s third-party logistics partners”. Whether he was a direct or indirect hire, for this article, we would stick with “Jumia agent”.

Mr. Chukwuma Eleje was murdered while on a delivery mission. The exact issues surrounding his death are still unclear, but reports suggest he had two ordered IPhones and a motorbike in his possession. He was killed and dumped inside a sewage pit before the police later got involved and his body was recovered. You can view a video of the three prime suspects in this sad event being interrogated by some police officials.

The facts of the murder are not of concern in this article. Numerous news channels and their likes would cover that. My issue is Jumia’s delivery model which puts its agents at risk. While I concede that there is little that can be done to keep agents safe when they go to make deliveries, except maybe limiting deliveries to public locations, there is another area where Jumia can make practicable changes. That area is the issue of payment on delivery.

Jumia offers a cash-on-delivery service that allows customers to pay at receipt of their goods. The idea behind this service is understandable—Nigerians have trust issues, so this is a way to address that inherent distrust. However, if Jumia can commit to a 24-hour cash return policy if a customer declines a delivered product, more persons would be willing to pay online with their debit cards. I believe this would reduce the risk of Jumia agents being “cash cows” carrying money around.

The suggestion above can only address one set of customers. There is another set of customers who pay cash because they do not use online banking. I do not believe they do not have access to online banking because using Jumia to order products implies that a person has internet access. Rather, some of these customers have trust issues with debit card transactions, and some have had their fingers burned by online fraudsters and have decided to stick to cash-only transactions. Some in this category refuse to even use ATM cards to withdraw money, instead, choosing to use the traditional over-the-counter approach.

Addressing this set of customers goes beyond Jumia’s power. This is a national issue that requires the banks’ attention. To grow the online economy, Nigerians have to trust that giving their card details to a commerce site would not “unnecessarily” expose them to fraud risks. They also have to be assured that in the event they lose money through attempting legitimate transactions online, the banks would investigate and return their money. This would push the banks and commerce sites to deploy robust security infrastructures to avoid losing money. If this issue of distrust is addressed, delivery agents of Jumia and other businesses would not risk their lives by handling cash during delivery runs.

I earlier said there is little Jumia can do to secure their agents apart from ending cash handling. Well, I was wrong. Chinua Achebe famously wrote that since men have learned to shoot without missing, the bird has learned to fly without perching. Jumia can deploy a tracking system on its trucks like the tracking system used by commercial airplanes, such that at any time, it knows where its agents are located. If Chukwuma had to check-in when he got to the delivery location, and had to check-in say, in about fifteen minutes when the delivery should have been completed, he may still be alive today, or it would not have taken long to discover he was missing. Such a tracking system would entail extra cost and organizational logistics, but it is workable and it can make attacks on agents less attractive. Jumia just needs to publicize the fact that its agents are constantly being tracked so that less-hardened evil planners would be discouraged.

It is important that we learn from every event, more obviously, unfortunate events. This murder should be a wake-up call to Jumia and other stakeholders in the online economy that things should not remain unchanged. There would always be people with stealing tendencies, but if we can make it more difficult to steal, we can reduce the number of planned robberies and save lives in the process.

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