Last month, Cabinet issued a directive to regulate boda boda operations in the capital city and restore sanity in the transport industry.
However, prior to the directive, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) had developed a boda boda ordinance for the same purpose. The ordinance is currently before KCCA council for debate and enactment.
What is at stake now is how both regulations with contradicting provisions will be implemented without undermining each other and failing the purpose of streamlining boda boda public transport in the city.
The boda boda ordinance was prepared by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago in 2018 following demands by both government and non-state actors to have the industry regulated.
The new Cabinet plan, which only awaits implementation, has sparked debate with different players in the transport industry questioning its legal status and how it will be implemented alongside the KCCA ordinance.
Section 8 of the KCCA Act gives the Authority power to make ordinances in conformity with the Constitution or any other law made by Parliament.
However, government has not issued a statutory instrument to legitimise the directive on boda boda operations.
This means the Cabinet plan, as it is now, is not legally enforceable and any actions arising from its implementation may attract litigation in court at high costs to government in compensation and legal bills.
Besides, the implementation of the Cabinet plan implies the KCCA boda boda ordinance will be rendered redundant or put in abeyance, and all the efforts in preparing the law would be a waste.
For example under the plan, all boda boda riders must operate at gazetted stages, register with KCCA through their respective stages and operate outside the boda boda free zones, which have already been designated.
Last month, Cabinet further directed that no boda boda shall pay any fee to anybody to register on a gazetted stage of choice and that boda boda companies, which are currently using online applications, shall share the register of all their members with KCCA.
Most boda boda problems, which the Cabinet seeks to resolve are also addressed in the KCCA ordinance.
The ordinance also seeks registration of all boda boda operators, formation of boda boda cooperative unions, registration of all online boda boda associations, gazetting stages and issuance of operational licences.
This was going to be done at a fee and thus giving KCCA revenue to run the city. However, Cabinet plan deprives KCCA of this revenue.
For instance, the ordinance provides for operational licences and monthly road user fees to KCCA, but the Cabinet plan does not.
The operational licences and monthly road user fees in the ordinance were triggered by the need to bolster KCCA’s revenue base to improve social services to the people.
Boda bodas have stages and also use city roads without paying revenue to KCCA to raise money for maintenance and other attendant costs.
It means that the new Cabinet plan will undermine this revenue aspect and deny KCCA billions of shillings needed to improve the transport industry in the capital.
The Cabinet plan requires all boda boda operators to register with KCCA but does not give legal requirements they must fulfil before registration as the ordinance provides.
The Cabinet directive, therefore, creates a situation where boda boda operators might deliberately dodge the registration because there is no law to make it compulsory.
As expected, the boda boda operators are likely to welcome the Cabinet plan, which attracts no tax and is easy to evade than the ordinance which requires them to pay fees and fulfil certain regulatory conditions.
Any attempt by KCCA to implement the ordinance therefore is likely to face resistance from boda bodas, and thereby making its implementation difficult.
Mr Lukwago told Daily Monitor in an interview this week that government is frustrating KCCA’s legislative mandate to make laws for the city.
“The minister wants to [frustrate] the legislative powers of KCCA. Those guidelines, if enforced mechanically, will be blocking the processes which are already underway. The progress we have made will be adversely affected because the KCCA technical team which we have been working with to enact the boda boda ordinance will develop cold feet and abandon the whole process. This will ultimately fail the entire process,” he said.
Mr Lukwago advised the minister for Kampala to bring the proposed transport plan to KCCA Council to be incorporated in the ordinance instead of introducing parallel guidelines without a legal framework under which they can be implemented.
For example, Cabinet proposes appointment of stage leaders, which runs counter to the ordinance’s provision for boda bodas to form cooperative groups.
Under the ordinance, boda boda operators will be required to form cooperative groups which can be used as electoral colleges to elect their national leadership body.
Kampala minister Betty Amongi declined to explain why Cabinet rushed with the boda boda plan.
“I am not going to answer that question,” Ms Amongi said when asked in a separate interview at Media Centre last week.
Some boda boda operators say the Cabinet plan does not address the general issues facing the industry.
Mr Emmanuel Mugisha, a member of Boda boda Century Group, faults government for unveiling a new plan without consulting the key players in the transport sub-sector.
He says the leadership issue was not addressed in the Cabinet plan yet it is one of the contentious issues affecting boda boda operators.
“We expected government to address the leadership issue because there are many rival groups and this has stagnated and disrupted the industry because most groups have sinister motives,” Mr Mugisha said.
There are more than 50 boda boda associations in Kampala with members paying allegiance to the group leaders.
The struggle for power between the rival groups has bred chaos in the industry.
In 2013, KCCA attempted to register boda bodas in the city to ascertain their number and identity but the exercise was stopped by police on account that it posed a security threat since some operators were clashing at registration centres.
By the time it was stopped, KCCA had registered only 57,000 boda bodas in the city. To date, the number of bod boda operators in the city remains unknown.
Officials from KCCA, who spoke to Daily Monitor , said their efforts to organise the transport industry in the city have been frustrated by different forces in political and security circles.
Dr Amin Tamale Kiggundu, an urban planning expert, attributes the chaos in the boda boda industry to poor planning in the city.
He says the emergence of boda boda transport was motivated by the service gap and inefficiency of public transport in the city and other urban centres.
Dr Kiggundu says the functionality and productivity of cities depend largely on the public transport system.
“So the problems and challenges faced by Kampala and other big towns in Uganda are a clear indication of the existence of an inefficient and poorly planned transport system. In short, what it means is that the boda boda business is being operated without standards that can be used to provide a good service,” he said.
He blames government for failing to regulate the boda boda business, saying under the market capitalism, the private sector such as boda boda operators cannot effectively regulate themselves. He said there is need for formalised policies, standards and laws.