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Bodaboda riders decry police harrasment

The ongoing crackdown to remove boda boda riders from Nairobi CBD has reportedly turned into a cash cow for police officers with riders claiming to be parting with between Shh10, 000 to Sh15, 000 to have their bikes released.

Less than a week after President Uhuru Kenyatta stopped the operation to nab rogue operators, riders on Thursday accused police of indiscriminate arrests, extortion, harassments and confiscation of their motorcycles.

They claimed that police are defying a government order stopping the crackdown to continue with extortion. Police were Thursday rounding up boda boda operators within the City Centre.

Riders who don’t meet the compliance requirements including having a driving licence, insurance and protective gear for themselves and their pillion passengers said they are forced to give more than Sh10, 000 to have their motorcycles released after arrest.

Those that meet all the requirements said they still have to pay at least Sh5000 to get back their bikes after they are arrested and taken to Central police station failure to which they will be charged with causing obstruction.

“I operate under Bolt (a taxi hailing company) and the requirement is to have full compliance with all regulations before they enlist you so I have everything but my bike is in custody. They have not charged me with anything but I have been asked to give Sh7000 to get my bike,” said a rider who claimed he was apprehended near Museum roundabout along Waiyaki way.

“I have met all the requirements but I have been told by an officer helping me get back my bike to come with Sh7000. I tried to explain how difficult it is to get the cash and how my family is suffering for the last two days my bike has been in custody, but in vain.”

But Nairobi Central sub county police commander David Mburukua dismissed the claims as unfounded.

“All we want from them is papers to prove that they have paid court fines as they are being taken to different courts. But we will still arrest you again if we find you within the CBD regardless of whether or not we have just released you, for operating in the CBD,” said Mburukua.

He spoke to this writer outside his office adding he doesn’t know the number of motorcycles impounded so far.

He said the riders are only required to go with their driving licences, logbooks, and police clearance certificates (the certificate of good conduct) , a reflective jacket and a helmet after paying fines in courts, to collect their motorcycles. They must also have insurance for their bikes to be on the road.

There were dozens of riders at Central police station yesterday seeking release of their motorbikes.

Most of the riders don’t have driving licenses and majority of those who spoke to Nation outside the police station admitted they operate without basic requirements including having driving licenses and insurance.

“We had returned after the government stopped the crackdown but we have been arrested notwithstanding. We are being ambushed with the requirements that are hard to meet because we have not been given enough time to prepare,” said a rider.

“There are more than 200 motorbikes in custody here and more are being brought in. Those are more than 200 families without a source of livelihood. We agree what some of us did was wrong but not all of us were involved or are criminals. We should be given at least two months to comply before they start arresting us.”

David Ouma, a rider, said his bike was impounded outside Nairobi sports house along Moi Avenue and taken to the station. He said he has all the requirements except the logbook which is in custody of his employer but he was still arrested.

There was a countrywide crackdown after bodaboda riders were captured in a video sexually assaulting a female motorist involved in an accident on March 4.

The crackdown was halted on Friday last week and 17 of suspected perpetrators are in custody after they were arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting and robbing the motorist said to be a UN employee.

They urged Interior CS Dr. Fred Matiang’i to intervene and clarify on the operation saying police are harassing innocent and hardworking boda boda operators working hard to pay loans and fed for their families.

“It is wrong to subject a whole sector to blanket condemnation and harass all members because a few are involved in criminal acts. We agree we don’t meet the requirements but the government should not deal with us as if we are all criminals,” said Francis Moturi who admitted he has no driving license and protective gear.

“The certificate of good conduct takes time to be processed and you have to pay more than Sh1000 to get it. The government should give us time to comply, form Saccos then start enforcing the regulations.”