By Job Bwire
As the number of people traveling increases as a result of the festive season, robbers in commuter taxis have accordingly invented new ways of attacking and stealing from passengers.
In an interview with the New Vision, the national chairman for Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA), John Ndyomugyenyi revealed that organised taxi crimes like robbery and rape have become rampant and on the increase.
He warned that there are higher such cases in and around Kampala, going the length to caution the public on vigilance amid the festive excitement.
He said robbers are now concealing the number plates of the cars they use using cello-tape, a new tactic meant to disguise the identity of the vehicle.
One such example is the systematic altering of the letter ‘I’ with black tape to make it look like a ‘T’ or changing the figure ‘2’ to ‘3’.
The UTODA chairman says a number of crooks have bought commuter taxis specifically to carry out robberies.
Some of them use their families and friends as passengers in order to trick their (potential) targets.
Such robbers are taking advantage of the belief that naturally, you will feel comfortable boarding a taxi with already more than five passengers onboard.
“When you board a taxi with less than six passengers, be vigilant and on the alert as these could be [potential] robbers,” cautioned Ndyomugyenyi.
In Kampala, these taxis operate along routes like Ntinda, Kamwokya, Naguru, Luzira and Nansana but do not reach their destination (Down Town), he said.
They also operate between 10pm local time to midday and during peak hours.
Taxi robbers also have agents and informants deployed at banks, ATM machines and mobile money outlets along routes they operate to monitor and waylay passengers who have withdrawn money and intend to embark taxis.
Amid the festive mood, Ndyomugyenyi also cautioned taxi operators vying longer routes, especially upcountry against increasing transport fares.
“Upcountry passengers should also be cautious of such opportunistic drivers who only have the intentions of exploiting them.
“Those who intend to travel should first negotiate the fare before embarking any vehicle. And those who intend to travel with their families also ought to do so early enough so as to avoid such inconveniences like hiked transport fares, accidents or robbery,” he said.
Besides, any passenger intending to travel need to record the registration number of the vehicle they intend to embark such that in case of any problem, police can easily trace it.
A caution went to drivers against reckless driving, drunk driving and overspeeding.
“Checking tyres, among other mechanical needs of the vehicle before setting off for any journey is also important in order to avoid accidents,” said the UTODA chairman.
He said some drivers, especially those on longer journeys, tend to use drugs like marijuana and alcohol to keep them awake, posing a huge risk to the passengers.