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Masindi bodaboda association suspends business over COVID-19

The Masindi Motorcycle Operators Association (MAMOA) has halted savings and issuance of motorcycle loans to members over the novel Coronavirus pandemic.

The association’s Secretary, Ricky Barongo, says that MAMOA had partnered with Post Bank to offer motorcycles on loan to its members.

“The program had yielded fruits but it was interrupted by the president’s ban on passenger transport in early March. Right now we cannot continue with it since most bodaboda riders are seated at home,” he said.

MAMOA has over 3000 members across Masindi district, all of them bodaboda riders.

Although the president’s directive allowed bodabodas to stay in operation on condition that they only transported cargo, the bodaboda operators say their income have drastically declined. 

Even worse is the situation, of riders who do not own their own motorcycles but were contracted for the job by other individuals. Barongo says that many have had their bodabodas withdrawn by their owners, leaving the riders with no source of income. 

“For some of our members, their bosses have withdrawn the motorcycles for fear that they would be confiscated by the police. Currently most are even failing to pay rent because they have no money.” 

Denis Musoke a bodaboda rider in Masindi town says his motorcycle was withdrawn and is not sure when, or whether, he will get it back. Even getting something to eat, he says, is now a struggle.

Given prevailing conditions, the association has been compelled to suspend its savings and loans business until normalcy returns.

“We have been forced to suspend some of the services until the situation gets to normal, after which we shall resume. Currently our members are starving because they have nothing to eat,” Barongo explains.

According to statistics obtained from the district bodabodas’ office, 2500 motorcycles were acquired on loan from banks and other motorcycle dealers in the district, while 1700 motorcycles are owned by individuals who hire bodaboda riders to operate them on their behalf. Only a handful of bodaboda riders own motorcycles.

Rent, food woes

Barongo also revealed that the association faces eviction from its current premises because they are unable to pay the rent. 

“We get our money through operations, savings and registration. Currently we are not working and so we may fail to pay rent.”

He appealed to well-wishers for help in covering their rent costs during this period.

Meanwhile, Samuel Tumusiime a bodaboda rider in Masindi town, expressed disappointed with Masindi district’s COVID-19 task force for excluding bodabodas from the vulnerable groups that benefitted from food assistance.

”We were registered from the stages, but when food was being distributed, it was done in the cells within the municipality, hence leaving out bodabodas who were stationed at their stages at the time,” he said.  

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