State on the spot for failing to implement report on ‘dangerous’ boda boda sector

 motorbikes impounded by police

Some of the motorbikes impounded by police during the recent crackdown. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Report by the National Crime Research Centre contains proposals that would have reformed the sector.
  • State agency conducted survey in 24 counties and made a raft of recommendations three years ago.

The government is on the spot for failing to implement its own report that flagged the boda boda sector as a dangerous for their role in road accidents, insecurity and teenage pregnancies.

This comes after the recent incident in which boda boda riders attacked and sexually harassed a female motosit on Professor Wangari Maathai Road following an accident. The government responded by ordering a crackdown but the same was halted shortly thereafter. 

The report by the National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) contains proposals that, if implemented, would have reformed the sector that employs thousands of youths across the country.

The NCRC report, a product of a survey conducted in 24 counties in 2019, proposed an expansion of the mandate of the National Transport Authority (NTSA) to include mandatory formal motorcycle training for the boda boda operators.

To actualise this, the report, which was tabled in the National Assembly in 2019, proposed that NTSA works with the police and county governments to weed out rogue and criminal riders.

“NTSA in conjunction with the police should carry out compliance and regular inspections, crackdown on riders who violate traffic rules,” the report says. “The lack of proper policing, regulations and close monitoring has led to the wanton recklessness, impunity, violence and siege mentality among the operators.”

NCRC visited 24 of the 47 counties to collect data and establish the security challenges in the boda boda sector. The surveyed Nairobi, Bungoma, Busia, Garissa, Homa Bay, Kajiado, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Kwale, Lamu Mandera, Marsabit, Migori, Mombasa, Narok, Siaya, Taita-Taveta, Tana River, Tharaka-Nithi, Trans Nzoia, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot.

The lack of a regulatory framework in the industry has seen the upsurge of criminal elements harassing Kenyans.

The NCRC document sought to make it mandatory that the industry players possess a license, certificate of good conduct, helmet and reflector jackets before being allowed on the roads.

“The national police should undertake intelligence led policing in gathering information and profiling criminal or rogue operators and upscale patrols and enforce public safety regulations like wearing helmets, reflector jackets and carrying only one passenger,” reads the report. 

The survey was predicated on the fact that the sector is growing exponentially, with boda bodas increasingly becoming a popular means of transport in both rural and urban areas.

There are concerns that the sector has been infiltrated by muggers and other criminal elements who use motorcycles to cause all manner of grief to the unsuspecting public. Without regulations and control, anyone who can ride a motorcycle can join the trade and operate as they wish. 

The boda boda operators have become lynch mobs, know no traffic rules treat pedestrians with contempt.

The most prevalent boda boda related crimes, according to the NCRC report, are causing death by dangerous driving at 79.5 per cent, general stealing (76.7 per cent), breaching of public order (66.2 per cent), assault (57 per cent), robbery and robbery with violence (52.9 per cent).

Riding under the influence of alcohol accounted for 52.7 per cent, usage of drugs (49.5 per cent), handling and trafficking of dangerous drugs (42.1 per cent), kidnapping and abduction (26.2 percent), bribery (23.1 per cent), defilement (17.8 per cent) and rape (17.2 per cent).

Address impunity

Other boda boda crimes include smuggling of goods across the borders at 15.9 per cent, theft of motor vehicle (14.2 per cent), fraud and forgery related offences (13 per cent), handling stolen property (12.8 per cent), burglary (11.3 per cent) and motorcycle hijackings (10.4 per cent).

NCRC also advises targeting those operating without licences and insurance cover, overloading, speeding, operating unregistered motorcycles and riding under the influence of alcohol.

The industry, the report notes, is dominated by a fairly youthful population of between the ages of 26 and 33 (male- 97.4 per cent and female 2.6 per cent).

“They are less educated, not professionally trained and of lower social standing operating in a context of weak policing, regulation and oversight,” says the report.

NCRC wants NTSA to collaborate with the County Transport Safety Committees to designate specific zones for boda boda operations in the counties. 

It seeks to establish a database for all the operators in the country through mandatory registration, refresher training courses and testing.

Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, an IT expert said such a database would help to address impunity, recklessness and criminals infiltrating the trade as registration makes it possible to track legitimate riders.

“The current situation offers great incentives for criminals to thrive as was the case in the matatu industry where notorious criminal gangs like Mungiki and Baghdad Boys, among others, reigned,” Mr Osotsi said. 

Mr Barasa Nyukuri, a governance expert said: “They drive recklessly and everywhere, including pavements and on the wrong sides of the road. They do not observe traffic lights among other traffic rules.” 

He said that it is against this background that regulating the industry is crucial in ensuring “a secure, orderly and reliable part of public transport in the country.”

Complaints of criminals on boda bodas attacking people are common at police stations across the country.

For instance at Nairobi’s Buru Buru Police Station, at least 50 such cases are reported daily. They range from snatching handbags and phones to robberies and carjackings, among others.

The boda boda operators have also been on the receiving end. Crimes committed against them include murder (62.2 per cent), robbery and robbery with violence (85.2 per cent), indecent assault (7.1 per cent) and assault (28.9 per cent).

The NCRC report attributes the actions by the riders to pervasive unemployment and idleness (48.3 per cent) as well as high levels of illiteracy (6.3 per cent). Greed and the desire for quick wealth are also cited at 10.6 per cent, peer pressure (7.9 per cent), collusion of boda boda operators with some law enforcement officers (14 per cent) and drug and substance abuse (17.5 per cent).