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Boda Boda Riders Decry Extortion, Protest High Fees For Training

 Boda boda riders in Kampala

A number of Boda boda riders in Kampala are still hesitant to register for training citing the high costs involved. In April this year, the Ministry of Works and Transport, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and the Uganda Police Force partnered with the Uganda Driving Licencing Agency to train riders as part of the ongoing campaign by the government to organize the Boda Boda Industry.


Boda boda riders have severally been accused of harboring reckless behavior on the road and abuse of traffic rules, which has led to avoidable accidents. To register, a rider is required to get a recommendation letter from their division of origin to prove that they are Boda Boda riders operating from a particular stage.


Only recommendation letters from the Boda Boda Industry Uganda, an umbrella association of Boda Boda associations are allowed. The letters are given at a fee, and according to riders who talked to Uganda Radio Network. The fees range from 5000 to 10,000 Shillings. The recommendation letter is what a rider presents to the first desk at the registration and training center.


At Kira Road Police grounds, a rider is welcomed at the first tent where officials from the Boda Boda Industry Uganda check and stamp their recommendation letters before they are led to the KCB Bank tent where they make payment of Shillings 60,000 and receipt issued before they proceed to the next tent for a health check-up.


On top of that, the rider also pays between Shillings 500 to 1000 to park their motorcycle at the registration and training grounds at Kira Road Police grounds each time they come for training for the five days. The government had announced earlier that the venue for registration would be an open public place. In total, a rider needs between Shillings 65,000 to 75,000 for the training.


Steven Kiwotoka is one of the Boda Boda riders who registered and trained. He says he decided to go for Training to attain knowledge of traffic rules and road signs. He however says that apart from the sight test, no other health tests were run as had been promised.


When the program started, the riders would be tested for vision, mental health, and blood sugar levels but these, Kiwotoka says were not done. He also noted that although he went through the process, he didn’t receive a receipt for the payment for the recommendation letter but couldn’t ask why because there seemed to be no clear way of conducting business.


Kiwotoka is among the slightly more the 10,000 riders that government reports to have trained. But for a program that has lasted more than four months now, not even half the 400,000 Boda Boda riders estimated to be in Kampala have been registered and trained.


We asked Richard Kanyereka, a Boda Boda rider along Kampala road why he has not registered for the training. According to Kanyereka, he didn’t trust the program and its intentions. Kanyereka says the manner in which, the program was announced and is being conducted exposes what a scam the program is. First of all, he says the fees seem to have been reached by a small group of people who didn’t consult the majority of the riders before committing them to pay that amount of money.


He referred to the program as a scheme for the said leaders to get some money and their accomplices too. Kanyereka says that efforts to organize the Boda Boda Industry should be put on riders getting driving permits and ensuring that every rider is registered with a stage. Asked if he is not worried that he might be stopped from operating from Kampala for failure to train, Kanyereka exhibited confidence that he couldn’t be kicked out, adding that there is no way he can give up Shillings 65,000 during these tough economic times.


Another rider, Mark Ssali from Kawempe also says that much as he would like to register for the training, the money is too high for a Boda Boda rider in a time when the cost of fuel is high and other necessities of life. Ssali indeed confirms that there is an advantage in registering Boda Bodas but that should be done at an affordable cost if the government is to increase the level of compliance.


Adson Amanya says that he is servicing a loan for his Boda Boda and cannot afford to spare more money to pay for the training whose benefit they are not aware of. Amanya says that the greatest benefit the riders would get from the process is acquiring permits but that is not part of the package.


But Siraj Mutyaba, the chairman of the Boda Boda Industry Uganda says that they negotiated with the trainers to reach fair fees being paid by the riders. He says that riders have a lot to miss if they don’t embrace this exercise, saying that they would rather negotiate their payment plans with companies that loaned them motorcycles to be able to pay for the training.


Regarding the fees for the recommendation letter, Mutyaba said that a rider pays a maximum of 5000 Shillings or even less depending on how they explain their situation to the officers issuing the recommendation. He said anyone asked to pay more than 5000 Shillings should report to the association’s main Offices at the Ovino building in Kampala.


As the exercise goes on, the office of the lord mayor is discontent with how the bid to organize Boda Bodas in Kampala is being done. In a recent interview with Uganda Radio Network, the City Deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura said that the political leadership is not opposed to organizing the Boda Boda Industry but it should be done in an organized manner following the law. KCCA is working on a Public Transport Bill to Streamline Public Transport including Boda Bodas in Kampala.


Nyanjura says that what is happening now is the broad day “thuggery” where people are asked to pay for a service that isn’t sanctiontioned by Council and the money is not accounted for. Last week, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja while officially launching the registration and training program said that no Boda Boda shall be allowed to operate in Kampala if they are not registered and trained. She also reiterated her earlier stand that only 7000 Boda Bodas shall be allowed to operate in the Central Business District.


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