SELF-REGULATION

Will identity plate restore order in boda boda industry?

The idea, conceived in Vihiga, will hold riders accountable for crime, indiscipline

In Summary

• Riders in Vihiga have introduced the plate with details that can help to track offenders

• Police believe if adopted countrywide, it will help a lot in ridding the sector of crime

Boda boda operators demonstrate during a past event
Boda boda operators demonstrate during a past event
Image: FILE
Simon Njeta, head of county askaris in Luanda subcounty, in his office at Luanda town
Simon Njeta, head of county askaris in Luanda subcounty, in his office at Luanda town
Image: MARTIN OMBIMA

The emergence of boda bodas in Kenya's economy was a relief to millions of jobless youths in the country.

The sector has employed both schooled and semi-schooled youths, creating a solution to the unemployment problem that has been facing the country for many years.

It has, however, been dogged by crime, indiscipline and accidents.

Riders in Vihiga are now trying to change the narrative by using an identity plate to hold members accountable.

“We have developed a special plate bearing the name, ID number and phone number of each rider within our circle,” said Johannes Odera, chairman of boda boda operators in Luanda.

The plate is red in colour for Luanda subcounty. Other subcounties are developing their own colours for the same.

It will only be used by boda boda operators in all 62 boda boda stages in Luanda subcounty.

Speaking to the Star, Odera said the plates will help them to fight the trend of underage boda boda operators, among other social ills.

He said the riders have always been blamed even for mistakes they had not made. He cited robbery with violence, defilement, rape, teen pregnancies, marriage break-ups, tax evasion and transporting illegal and counterfeit goods.

“The major issues we are linked to as boda boda riders are impregnating schoolgirls, causing mayhem in political events, evading tax and having problems with county askaris daily, and it has been all over the media,” he said.

Odera said the riders are accused of luring girls through lifts, pocket money and cheap gifts for sex.

“Security agents have put us on the spot as the major transporters of illegal goods, alcoholic substances, bhang and counterfeits,” he added.

The riders have also been used by politicians in fighting their opponents and causing mayhem in political rallies as well.

One of the bikes with a red plate bearing the county, subcounty, stage number, ID number and phone number of the individual
One of the bikes with a red plate bearing the county, subcounty, stage number, ID number and phone number of the individual
Image: MARTIN OMBIMA

FALSELY ACCUSED

Odera's views are shared by Luanda town boda boda chairman Julias Odhiambo and security chief Harrison Sayi.

Odera said they have been doing their own survey and they realised people believe anybody with a motorcycle around is a boda boda rider.

However, some are teachers, business people or just owners of motorbikes for their own private leisure.

“The lucrative sector is currently contributing to the country's economy heavily but its image is tarnished. That is what we want to clean,” he said.

Odera said in Luanda subcounty, the sector is doing well and has employed more than 2,800 youths.

With so many people reliant on it, they realised the need to reform the sector.

Odera said though there are some “petty crimes” in the sector, the plate will clear innocent members and help the authorities find the culprits.

“For instance, the teen pregnancies that we have been accused of are caused by teachers, schoolmates and other people who own private bikes as well,” he said.

“But because these individuals use motorbikes with reflectors, they are perceived as boda boda operators.” 

Luanda boda bodas chair Johannes Odera (2nd L) and other boda boda officials showcase their plates
Luanda boda bodas chair Johannes Odera (2nd L) and other boda boda officials showcase their plates
Image: MARTIN OMBIMA

NO MORE SMUGGLING

Odera said with all this blame around the sector, they were not able to clean their name before the security agents and the public at large.

He said creating sanity within their sector will be the only way out.

It is also hoped the plate will help them tackle those transporting illegal goods and counterfeits.

“All bikes with those plates will be allocated stages of operation. Bikes from other stages will also be accommodated for parking while on special operations far from their stages, and security will be granted, too,” Odera said.

He said in case of accidents or any arrests, bike owners will be tracked via that plate with identification.

Odera said those handing over their motorcycles to other people will bear the burden if the bike is involved in any crime.

The plate will also help them fight private motorbikes that have been involved in crime in the name of boda boda operators as well.

Odera said for any rider to register for the plate, he or she must be a member of a registered stage, well known by members of the particular stage, with an identification card and mobile phone registered in his or her name.

Simon Njeta, the head of security in Luanda subcounty, said with this strategy in place, it will help them track easily those who evade paying taxes.

“We have been having issues with these riders. They park everywhere they want and when you confiscate their bikes, it becomes problematic in the town,” he said.

“So with the measures they are putting in place, let them comply and we are going to cooperate so smoothly.”

Njeta further said with the change will help them to have proper planning for the town as well.

Luanda OCPD Mohamed Kulow
Luanda OCPD Mohamed Kulow
Image: MARTIN OMBIMA

SECURITY: DO IT IN ONE VOICE

Luanda OCPD Mohamed Kulow said the idea is good and will help to prevent crimes in Luanda town and its environment at large.

He said if the plate is adopted by all members of the boda boda sector, they will achieve a lot in cleaning their name.  

“We have been battling with insecurity issues in Luanda town, but the idea the boda boda riders are tabling will be of great help to us security agents,” Kulow said.

“For those who don’t have the plate, how are they going to deal with them?”

Responding to that, Odera said they have given a deadline of up to May 1, and those who will not have acquired the plate will face the full force of the law.

Kulow said what they are proposing should start with unity among themselves for it to materialise across the county.

Luanda subcounty will bear a red plate, Emuhaya blue, Vihiga green. Plans are underway for the same plate in Sabatia and Hamisi.

“They should also further brief us on how they are going to deal with those from the neighboring counties because Luanda borders Kisumu, Kakamega and Siaya,” the OCPD said.

He added that in Luanda town during market day, it receives people from Bungoma and Busia, some on motorbikes that should be accorded space for operation.

Kulow asked why the plate is in the rider's name. Odera explained this will help the bike's owners not to take responsibility for other people’s mistakes.

“Bike owners will no longer be charged for mistakes committed by riders and in this way, we are compelling riders to be responsible with their bikes as well,” Odera said. 

Edited by T Jalio