At least 52,000 motorcycles have not received number plates, posing a security nightmare and loss of income for those in the boda boda business.
The Sunday Nation has learnt that the Kenya Prisons Service, that produces the number plates, has run out of material to make them.
Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya (MAAK) has raised an alarm, decrying that their pleas have gone unheard from the government.
“We have had endless meetings with the National Transport and Safety Authority and the Office of the Principal Secretary for Correctional Services (Zeynab Hussein). This has always resulted in promises to sort out the mess but none of the timelines have been met. Currently, the process of allocation of number plates is at a standstill and no motorcycles have been issued with the plates since January 29,” said Dr Isaac Kalua, chairperson of the association.
The association said that they have been facing problems since October last year when only a small proportion of applicants received number plates.
Recently, the government stopped issuing even the allocation slips forcing some of the assemblies and their dealers across the country to close down affecting thousands of jobs.
Number plates for both cars and motorcycles are produced by Kenya Prisons Service.
The government has also been unable to introduce to the new generation number plates in what is viewed as internal wrangles at prisons department. The department is under Ms Hussein who reports to Interior Security Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiangi.
Ministry sources said the whole mess stems from an order by the PS to audit all tenders in the prisons department thereby paralysing the entire prisons system.
Sources indicate that materials for making number plates have run out and new ones can’t be made because internationally they have become obsolete.
Ironically, materials for new generation number plates have already been supplied, but somehow the government has been unable to initiate making of the new plates.
The proposed new generation number plates will have anti-counterfeit features that include holograms, watermarks, and laser markers which, if implemented, would provide the necessary checks that work against double-registration of cars. Regionally, Kenya lags behind in rolling out the technology.
Efforts to get comments from both PS Hussein and communication department of Interior were futile as they did not return our calls or respond to our text messages queries.
Following the DusitD2 terrorist attack a month ago, it emerged that even cars have had identical number plates thereby raising the prospects of numberless motorcycles across the country also being used for nefarious activities. This has led to an intense audit at NTSA.
Recently, police arrested 19 of the NTSA employees in a bid to smash the number plate-cloning ring for cars, believed to be aiding terrorists.
The ring, comprising officials attached to the Licensing, Information Technology, Inspection and the Registration of Motor Vehicles departments of the NTSA, has been helping criminals to duplicate number plates for stolen vehicles and those used for criminal activities.
MAAK, which is an association for all the 21 motorcycle assemblers in the country, is also decrying continued police harassment of boda boda owners as a result of the lack of number plates.
“Our sales have drastically dropped and boda boda riders are being arrested for riding without plates. As a result our assembly plants are now facing closure,” said Dr Kalua.
MAAK estimates that there are about 700,000 boda bodas on Kenyan roads right now which translates to revenues of about Sh700 million if each rider makes an average of Sh1,000 per day.
The motorcycle assemblers produce and sell at least 12,000 motorcycles per month.
It is estimated that assemblers together with the local motorcycle parts manufacturers directly employ about 5,000 Kenyans.
“The success of an entire automotive supply chain is so crucial in creating the economic and social stability of our Country. All the assemblers are currently now focusing on localisation of motorcycle parts to promote industrialisation and create more jobs in line with the Big 4 Agenda,” said Dr Kalua.
Even as the country is yet to migrate to new generation number plates, car dealers are stuck with piling stocks of vehicles because the registration of new units has remained frozen for more than two weeks.
The audit is intended to weed out fake number plates. Multiple government agencies are involved in the ongoing clean-up that comes in the wake of last month’s terrorist attack on Nairobi’s dusitD2 hotel complex where a car used by the gunmen had the same registration number (KCN 340E) as another vehicle.