Nakuru County Assembly speaker Joel Kairu has broken ranks with Governor Lee Kinyanjui in a new twist on the controversy surrounding eviction of public service vehicles from the Central Business District (CBD).
In an unprecedented move, Mr Kairu lashed out at the County boss for what he termed as being insensitive to the plight of hundreds of drivers, touts and business people that rely on the public transport sector for a livelihood.
While speaking at the Rift Valley Regional headquarters where the matatu operators marched to show their support for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, the speaker claimed that Mr. Kinyanjui had unilaterally made the decision to bar the public service vehicles without making consultations with stakeholders.
“This was a well-orchestrated plan to kick matatus out of the CBD but we will fight for them and ensure they return. You cannot be dumped outside town where there are no sanitation amenities and water yet you fend for your families.
Bars and churches have been allowed to resume, why not public service vehicle operators? The transporters must be involved fully if the governor’s goal is their permanent relocation from the CBD,” stated the speaker.
The operators who met Rift Valley Regional Commissioner, George Natembeya were accompanied by Nakuru Town East Member of Parliament David Gikaria and Metropolitan Church Archbishop Dr Michael Brawan.
The speaker said the County administration was punishing business people already weighed down by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He challenged the County Administration to hire an expert to develop an Integrated Urban Transport Master Plan in the next five years, adding that the devolved unit should also hold an urgent stakeholders’ meeting to address low business in the Nakuru CBD.
In March, the county Coronavirus emergency response committee ordered all public service vehicles out of the CBD, as a containment measure against the spread of the virus.
Matatus were relocated to areas including Ziwani, Kwa Jack, Showground area and Railways grounds among others, all out of town, a move operators have vehemently opposed.
Mr Natembeya promised to engage Governor Kinyanjui to ensure the County government provides matatu operators with better services at the new termini where they were relocated to.
“As a government we are keen to ensure business people have a proper environment to operate from as they eke out a living. The National Government and the county government will work together to ensure your demands are addressed,” stated Mr Natembeya
He called on matatu operators and members of the public to observe safety guidelines issued by the National government towards curbing the spread of Covid-19.
The Regional Commissioner expressed concern over a sharp rise in the number of new Covid-19 infections in all the 11 sub-counties within the devolved unit.
He said over 80 percent of hospital spaces in public facilities in Nakuru were currently occupied by Covid-19 patients, while private hospitals in the region were no longer admitting patients as their beds were filled to capacity.
Central Rift Matatus Association Chairman Steve Muli stated that they had called off protests to allow for dialogue.
“We have stopped protests so that we can dialogue and resolve the stand-off. We have directed our members to also suspend planned strikes to allow for dialogue,” said Mr Muli.
In response, governor Kinyanjui called on matatu operators to consider themselves ‘as part 0f the transport system’ and not ‘its exclusive owners’.
The governor stated that his administration was sourcing for a contractor to start construction of a modern transport centre, equipped with necessary social amenities at a cost of Sh. 100 million.
The County boss revealed that the county leadership will incorporate technology in monitoring, tracking and arresting criminal elements who were holding transport operators hostage.
He said the County government had good intentions in unveiling the project, whose full implementation will lead to a modern and vibrant town with a well-organized transport system.
“The funds are available and if need be we will source for more to achieve a better scope. My office is open for dialogue as we call for patience in dealing with such weighty matters.
The transport sector besides matatus incorporates private motorists, heavy commercial trucks, bodaboda operators and service vehicles such as ambulances and fire brigades among others,” stated Mr. Kinyanjui.
By Anne Mwale