Mohammed Aden is a resident of the Somali Region capital city, Jigjiga. He has worked as a driver of a three-wheeled vehicle commonly known as Bajaj for many years and bought his own Bajaj 3 years ago. After that he went to the Regional transport office to get a vehicle license plate, he says he was asked to pay 12,000 ETB. “I had no option but to pay.”
Despite it being illegal, the ‘price' for getting a license plate has skyrocketed in recent times“Many people who want to get it are required to pay up to 30, 000 ETB,” adds Mohammed. Yet data from the Somali Region Transport Bureau shows that the correct amount of fee one should pay to get a license plate for a bajaj is only a 1000 ETB. This raises the question of where the rest of the money that people are required to pay goes.
Many observers of the situation would say that the corruption rate in the region is rampant in all the sectors, not only in the transport sector. “You could say the society itself nurtures, protects, celebrates and rewards corrupt officials,” says Abdi Omer, a Social Work Lecturer in Jigjiga University. According to Abdi, this trend has been dragging the Region's development and the public is paying a heavy price.
Bereket Ayalew is also another driver. He remembers how he suffered to get his license plate two years back. He says “I know many of my friends who bought bajajis, but the vehicles are still idle because of the illegal payments.Such frauds and payments are worsening the lives of people,” he adds.
These kinds of corrupt activities could lead the youth of the Region into illegal practices like looting and engaging in illegal activities. Abiy Akalu, a Bajaj driver, agrees with this matter. He says that because some youth couldn't get the license plate easily, they were forced to work illegally at night, hiding from the police.
According to data gathered from the Regional Government Transport Bureau, more than 11 thousand registration plates of bajajis have been given illegally in Jigjiga town alone in the past ten years.
The officials are aware of the case, yet they say that their knowledge is based on rumors “we are trying to find eyewitnesses and concrete evidence to solve these corruption cases but we haven’t captured anyone yet” says Roble Bu’ul, the Head of the Office of Road and Transport
“We know some rumors are going around that the transport office is charging more than 30 thousand birr per bajaj so we have assigned a committee led by the vice president of the Bureau of Road and Transportation including the regional police commission Commissioner Mr. Mahamed to solve it and take action against these issues” says Roble Bu'ul.
The number of Bajaj is increasing on a day to day basis. Records show that there are more than 10 thousand bajaj in Jigjiga only .
( Mohamod Hassen Ali)