NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 19- Boda-boda operators have welcomed the government’s move to extend the mandate of a taskforce formulating reforms in the vibrant sector to May 1, during which they are meant to adhere to all traffic rules.
Initially, the operators consisting mainly youth numbering nearly a million countrywide, had been given until January 31 to comply, before they protested.
Capital FM News interviewed a section of the operators in Nairobi county, about some of the requirements imposed, which include a mandatory license, two helmets and obeying traffic rules.
Their only appeal is to the Nairobi County Government to lift a ban on the Central Business District, which they said negatively impacts on their business and exposed them to potential corruption.
“You can see how unsettled everyone is,” John Mutua one of the operators said, sitting on his motorbike, ready to pedal off, “they (county askaris) can show up anytime because they are targeting us.”
On Kenyatta Avenue in the Central Business District, the operators are often parked at specific spots, facing opposite directions to spot danger that the city askaris or police.
“The county should lift the ban because Nairobi residents are in need of our services,” Mutua said, “”That is why we [are] always on the move.”
Another rider who did not give his name added, “the ban was only meant to help the County Askari’s make more money from us.”
By this they imply the alleged corruption from county askaris, who target arrest them and impound their motorcycles, only to release them once they receive bribes.
We were unable to immediately get a comment from the county government on the alleged corruption by its askaris, but Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is on record saying he does not condone graft from any of its officials, often warning them of dire consequences.
Opinion is however, divided among city residents on the boda boda crackdown.
While some say they should be left to access the CBD, others lauded the county government for imposing the ban.
“They need a lot of training before being allowed to access the CBD. Indiscipline is their major undoing,” George Wandera, a city resident told Capital FM News.
“But for me,” another city resident who only gave her name as Alice said, “they are doing business like any other person in town. They should not be restricted.”
Others think it is the entire transport sector that needs an overhaul since flouting of traffic rules is not a reserve of boda-boda operators only.
“As long as there is law and order, they should be able to operate (within the CBD), the purpose of Government is to regulate businesses. But you don’t do that by shutting people off,” another city resident said.
“Basically, everyone is doing the same including very big Government cars fond of being driven on the wrong side.
It is really a culture that we must work around. It is not just the boda-boda sector but there is a lot of anarchy that is getting into all these crucial sectors.”
Recent statistics by the National Transport Safety Authority shows deaths caused or involving boda-boda operators in the country.
More than 400 motorcyclists, pedestrians and pillion passengers have died this year to accidents.
Early next year, the Government plans to hold a National Convention for Boda-Boda operators, as part of measured to address pertinent issues affecting the industry that employs nearly a million youth.
The revelation was made on Tuesday by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, after a stakeholders meeting with representatives from the Executive, National Assembly’s Transport committee and other players in the industry.