Kajiado police unearth motorcycle theft syndicate

motorcycle theft

Angry boda boda riders confront police officers in Kitengela town in November 2023. They were protesting against rampant motorcycle theft.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

Boda boda riders in Kajiado County have raised concerns over rampant motorcycle theft that has left 10 people dead, at least 50 riders injured and over 600 motorcycles stolen in the past year.

According to data from the Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya (BAK) Kajiado County branch, the boda boda sector in the vast county has been taken over by a gang of criminals who kill, maim and steal motorcycles to the chagrin of riders.

According to the data of stolen motorcycles in major towns include Loitok tok (84), Kajiado town (109), Ong'ata Rongai (110), Ngong (101), Kitengela (140) totalling 544 reported stolen motorcycles in a year. This translates to about Sh 152,320,000 for Sh 280,000 per motorcycle.

Kajiado County BAK chairman Alex Gitari told Nation on Monday that stolen motorcycles either end up in Lokolo informal settlement in Tanzania through the porous border and Kiamaiko and Mukuru kwa Njenga slums in Nairobi where the stolen motorcycles are said to be dismantled and resold as spare parts.

"All the motorcycles stolen in Loitoktok and Namanga end up in informal settlements in Tanzania. We have tried several times to get access to the stolen motorcycles in the area, but we are met with strong resistance from a cartel involved in the vice," said Mr Gitari.

However, motorcycles stolen from the satellite towns of Kitengela, Ong'ata Rongai, Kiserian and Ngong are said to end up in Nairobi's Kiamaiko and Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums.

The cartel, which is said to run a well-orchestrated scheme, usually targets new motorcycles acquired through financing. The network has spies in every town, posing as either riders or mechanics. They usually move in on their prey at night.

"Once the bikes are stolen from the satellite towns, the tracking systems are disconnected once they reach Nairobi. The slums are inaccessible. We have tried several times to track the stolen motorcycles to the slums only to be rudely rebuffed by a vigilante group," said Mr Gitari, accusing the police of complicity.

Mr Justus Onjoke, 29, was ambushed by a gang of robbers armed with crude weapons at night at the Mombasa Road turn-off tunnel last week. He was ordered to surrender the motorcycle. He told Nation.Africa on Monday that he had initially paid a motorcycle loan balance of Sh24,000. He was paying Sh580 per day. 

"I was on my way to Kitengela after running some errands in Mlolongo. They blocked the road and I was forced to surrender my motorcycle. I was still servicing the loan. The microfinance institution that financed me is now on my neck and I cannot afford to feed my family," he told Nation.Africa.

Mr Onjoke's plight is shared by dozens of motorcyclists in Kitengela town, some of whom have been left with permanent scars on their bodies. Motorcyclists are currently mourning their colleague who was murdered in Kitengela Kyangombe Estate before his bike was stolen. He is yet to be buried. The gang also targets motorcycles parked in residential plots.

On Tuesday last week, a 29-year-old suspect was cornered by angry boda boda riders with a stolen motorcycle. The suspect, who worked as a motorcycle repairer, was saved from being lynched by police officers.

He confessed to police that he was a member of a three-man gang that stole targeted motorcycles for Sh10,000 after delivering them to a godown in Athi River, Machakos County.

Isinya Sub County Police Commander Patrick Manyasi told Nation.Africa that they were pursuing the suspects who have since gone into hiding. He urged members of the public to volunteer information that could lead to arrests of the gang members.

"The said suspects are on police radar, we are pursuing them. We have some strong leads and we are working with our colleagues in Nairobi to dismantle the racket," Mr Manyasi said.

Currently, BAK data shows that 90 per cent of all new motorcycles are financed through microfinance loans of at least Sh300,000, payable in daily instalments of Sh550 for 18 months.

Most of the agreements between the motorcycle owner and the microfinance institution seen by Nation.Africa says that if a motorcycle is stolen, the financier will compensate the rider while they trace the stolen motorcycle and pursue the case with the insurance company. However, the financing institutions are said to be forcing their clients to continue servicing the loans of the stolen motorcycles.

"Most of the motorcycle theft victims are being forced by the finance institutions to service their loans against the agreement. We are calling on the national government to intervene," Mr Gitari added.

It is also suspected that some unscrupulous motorcycle dealers may be involved in the motorcycle theft syndicate.

There are 26,000 registered motorcycles in Kajiado County.