Why prison warders, APs are now side hustling in boda boda business
Constable Jackson hands in his gun at the armoury of the Makueni Remand Prison, clocks out, jumps onto his new motorcycle and rides home to change into civilian clothes.
After freshening up, he puts on his helmet, a heavy jacket and rubber gloves, ready to embark on his part-time job.
Jackson is among some two dozen prison warders and Administration Police (AP) officers in Makueni Town, who moonlight as boda-boda operators.
“This is what I do when I’m not working,” Constable Jackson tells the Saturday Nation even as he requests that we conceal his true identity because he is not allowed to talk to journalists.
MAKE EXTRA MONEY
He is revving his motorcycle near the offices of the county government in Wote as a group of county government officials are emerging from their offices.
Jackson hopes to get one of them for customer. Sure enough, a young woman walks over to him and after they agree on the fare, she hops onto the motorcycle as a pillion passenger.
The constable and 23 of his colleagues own motorcycles that they operate as taxis after work and during their off days to make extra money and to beat idleness.
There are many more officers who own motorcycles, but unlike Jackson, they do not ride them themselves. Instead, they lease them out and collect Sh500 a day. A few well-off officers have graduated from boda-bodas to car taxis.
“My colleagues, college lecturers and county government officials working around this side used to either walk long distances or wait for long before they were picked up by a boda-boda from town,” said Patrick (not his real name), another officer who has been operating a boda-boda for a year.
The business, he says, earns him Sh30,000 in a good month.
Unlike their civilian competitors, the officers invested in brand-new bikes, which gave them an edge. This way, they have been able to attract more customers.
However, the officers are putting their official jobs on the line because their bosses have not approved of what they do after they clock out.
Though the senior officers acknowledge that they have no control over what their enterprising juniors do when they are off duty, they harbour misgivings that their side hustles could compromise some security operations.
“Suppose the police are out there managing riotous boda-boda operators while some of the officers are sympathetic with operators because they are their colleagues, the security operation is compromised,” county Prison Commander Patrick Naibei, said in an interview.
Aware of the dictates of their official duty, these part-time boda-boda operators have kept a safe distance from their civilian counterparts. They have even turned down invitations to join a welfare association of local boda-boda operators chaired by Mr Urbanus Mutisya.
Sometime last year, the association successfully rallied the more than 800 boda-boda operators to increase the standard fare for most destinations within Wote from Sh30 to Sh50, citing the high cost of fuel.
“Whenever we are petitioning for something from the government, the officers do not join us. They later plead that we understand them, and we do,” Mr Mutisya said.