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Bar owners join the fight against substandard brews

Bar owners in Nakuru County have thrown their weight behind the government’s efforts to eradicate the sale of illicit liquor, saying besides claiming the lives of Kenyans the vice was subjecting genuine businessmen to losses running into billions of shillings.

The businessmen under the auspices of the Nakuru Bar Owners Association (NBOA) have further called for comprehensive measures by both the counties and national government aimed at curbing the consumption of killer brews in Kenya.

NBOA Chairman Dr Abdul Noor urged the law enforcement agencies and licensing teams established by various county Governments and the National Police Service to ensure stringent compliance with the Laws regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol.

While advising bar owners to buy supplies from accredited distributors to avoid briefcase merchants who sell counterfeits, Dr. Noor said the manufacture and distribution of killer brews can be traced to a few selfish individuals who want to enrich themselves as they endanger the lives and health of Kenyans.

He accused gluttonous cartels of working with the full knowledge of some unscrupulous state agents tasked with ensuring drinks are safe from fueling the trade in lethal alcoholic beverages.

“For lives to be lost and alcohol addiction to grow day by day, it means somebody somewhere is not doing their work since we have policies in place and institutions are well staffed. Somebody must take responsibility,” the Chairman demanded.

He called on the Kenya Revenue Authority and law enforcement agents to probe the source of toxic ingredients used to manufacture lethal brews and claimed that he had information that some of the substances were being sneaked into the country from a neighbouring state.

Speaking after the association held a two-hour closed meeting with Nakuru County Government’s Public Health Department top management officials Dr Noor also petitioned the Court system to issue stringent bail terms and deterrent fines to offenders contravening the provisions of these laws to completely eradicate and discourage illicit brew consumption.

Dr. Noor said some dealers of killer brews had walked scot-free after being slapped with fines as low as Sh 10,000 after pleading guilty to the offense.

He expressed the need to have strict laws and deterrent fines that will ensure the complete eradication of illicit brew consumption in the country.

Further, the Association urged members of the public to exercise vigilance and caution while purchasing and consuming alcoholic drinks and desisting from excessive consumption of alcohol.

Their remarks come days after several members of Kangai village, Kirinyaga County lost their lives after consuming illicit brew. So far more than 20 people have been declared dead and 20 others declared blind.

The bar owner on the other hand was arraigned in court and is to be detained for 20 days for police to conclude investigations. He is being held at the Kiamaciri Police Station and the case will be mentioned on March 7, 2024.

Dr Noor expressed their objection to plans to reduce the number of pubs in towns but instead called for the closure of illegal or unlicensed alcohol-selling outlets.

The chairman indicated that the second-generation alcohol brewers and sellers were running genuine traders out of business and denying the government revenue as they don’t pay taxes.

He said the liquor sector in Nakuru was employing at least 1,000 workers directly and supporting thousands more including those in the food industry and transportation and therefore the need to protect them from unfair competition.

“As genuine traders in the sector, we feel shortchanged by those trading in illicit and harmful substances who also deny the government revenue. We support efforts to eliminate these brews,’ said the official.

NBOA Vice Chairman Mr Alex Ng’ethe regretted that the illegal substances were causing havoc in the community and even leading to the death of mostly young consumers.

“We are right behind the government in the war against the manufacture and sale of these drinks which have caused a lot of pain among families. Apart from being pub owners, we are also parents and hence concerned by the unhealthy alcoholic substances being sold,” Mr Ng’ethe stated.

He encouraged people to contact the Anti-Counterfeits Authority (ACA) Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS) for appropriate action if they suspected an alcohol outlet was selling counterfeit products.

He also called on liquor manufacturers to monitor their products in the market in a move aimed at exposing killer brews.

Mr Ng’ethe said their association of over 1,500 members will continue complying with the government’s directive to sell approved alcoholic brands.

He however called on the County Government to strictly enforce the law and not license outlets near schools and residential estates.

“We are appreciative of the government’s effort in eradicating the vice and we shall continue selling what is fit for human consumption,” observed the Vice chairman.

His sentiments were echoed by Tom Mwaura, a member who said clients should be mindful of what they consume as many products can be concealed as fit but are substandard thus becoming a threat to their health.

Mwaura said that their association will conduct aggressive campaigns across the country, sensitizing the public on the dangers of consuming illicit brews.

“Because the illicit stuff is cheap compared to the legal products we sell, they attract many consumers, thus giving us unfair competition,” Mr Mwaura said.

“Looking at the pattern of illicit alcohol trading and looking at how widely it is spread, there is absolutely no doubt there is a heavy cartel in operation. To move such volumes of illicit alcoholic drinks requires a lot of planning, coordination, concealment, and so on. There is a cartel and a huge one. We need to reform our institutions massively and a coordinated approach by all relevant agencies to defeat these cartels,” said Mwaura.

Mary Njeri, also a member, called for the weeding out of rogue law enforcement agencies from the police, national government offices, Nacada, and others.

Ms Njeri alleged that illegal traders import and successfully clear methanol disguised as ethanol by carefully deleting the letter ‘M’ from the container so that the products appear to be ethanol.

By Anne Mwale and Dennis Rasto 

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