Luweero police have rejected a petition by 500 market vendors challenging the enforcement of a ban stopping them from traveling on Lorries. Recently, Luweero police intensified patrols to stem road accidents. Police also banned the transportation of students and vendors on Lorries citing Section 105 (1) (a) and 105 (1) (b) traffic road Safety act 1998. The two sections ban the use of any vehicle for carriage of passengers or goods when it’s not licensed to do so. But market vendors in Luweero district will not have any of this. They argue that the ban was instituted in bad faith adding that it is uncalled for. On Wednesday, market vendors from Luweero, Nakaseke and Nakasongola petitioned their District Police Commanders challenging the ban and fines imposed on those found traveling on Lorries.
They accused police of levying exorbitant fines as well as staging unnecessary road blocks that have paralyzed transport. Francis Ssematimba, the lead petitioner says Lorries are cheaper and easier means of transport for both vendors and their goods. He says despite the fact that police wants them to use buses, they are inaccessible and too costly yet they operate on limited capital. Sematimba wants police to stop enforcing the ban saying it is inapplicable in their region. Mariam Namutebi, a vendor in Luweero town council says although the traffic and road safety act stipulates fines ranging from 100000-200,000 shillings for those found traveling on Lorries; police is charging them 900,000 shillings.
She argues that the exorbitant fines raise suspicion whether the exercise is meant for extorting money from vendors or frustrating them from business. She also rejects a proposal by police that they should hire two vehicles one for their merchandise and another for their travel saying it is costly. Namutebi says as a result of the intensified police operations, vendors have resorted to traveling in wee hours to evade arrest, which exposes them to robbers. Justine Mugabi, another vendor from Luweero Town council says they are opposed to the implementation of the law, but they want it done fairly to both parties. Mugabi claims that they are already choking on various taxes, which have eaten into their profits. He dismisses suggestions that the use of Lorries is responsible for the high number of accidents in the district and instead blames it on the narrow potholed roads, which he wants the works ministry and district to address immediatly.
She asks police to halt the implementation of the ban and address their complaints. Abdul Nadduli, the Luweero LC V chairperson has thrown his weight behind the vendors saying police has no moral authority to enforce the law since they also use Lorries to transport officers for operations and new stations. He also questions the number of road blocks, which he says are affecting transport and the flourishing trade. Nadduli instead wants police to concentrate on speeding, reckless driving and vehicles under dangerous mechanical condition.
However, Godfrey Ninsiima, the Luweero District Police Commander says that ban and fine stay in force because they are provided for in the traffic road safety act. He advises the vendors to petition Abraham Byandala, their area Member of Parliament who also doubles as works and transport minister to table an amendment in regard to their complaints.
He also advises them to apply for Owner Transporter Vehicle license from Ministry of Works and Transport which allows them to use Lorries for transportation of goods and a limited number of people. In 2011, Uganda lost 3,343 people in road accidents while 14,000 were injured. Ministry of Works and transport also estimates the loss of 800 billion shillings annually as result of road accidents. The money is lost in treatment in hospitals; cost of investigating the accidents and damage to vehicles and property.