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Crackdown on counterfeit drinks intensify in Kwale

Kwale County Commissioner (CC) Gideon Nyandiricha Oyagi has directed the security agencies to deal firmly with the sale and consumption of substandard and counterfeit drinks in the region.

Oyagi expressed concern over the growing menace of substandard and counterfeit alcoholic drinks.

The administrator spoke during the launch of a 30-day Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) on the elimination of substandard and counterfeit drinks.

Coast Region National Authority for the Campaign against Drug Abuse (NACADA) Manager George Karissa. Photo by Raymond Zaka

The County Commissioner noted that illicit alcohol and drug and substance abuse has caused havoc to the economy and security of the county should ensure the vice is eliminated.

“Illicit and substandard alcohol is taking down our economy, the government is losing a lot of money because the people involved are not paying taxes,” said Onyagi.

He said the RRI programme will also create awareness on the manufacture, sale, and consumption of unauthorised alcohol.

Moreover, the initiative will focus more on identifying business personnel who have been faulting the regulations set by the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) and other regulatory agencies.

The CC said the program will bring on board significant stakeholders like the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and ensure all bars and liquor centers are fully complying with the set regulations.

Onyagi clarified that the war on the illicit brew shall not be used as a means to stalk alcohol users; instead, it will focus more on guaranteeing the safety of the industry.

The CC sounded a warning to bar and wine and spirits proprietors who have not been observing Covid-19 protocols, vowing to take harsh action including withdrawal of operating licenses.

‘‘Some bars are doing business past the required time. Owners of such facilities will face the law. No one is above the law, ’’Onyagi said.

Onyagi asked residents to cooperate with the local administrators and the security personnel to ensure errant business personnel are held responsible.

He added that some liquor centers have been used as hideouts by criminals, thus posing a great challenge to the development of the county. ”People have been terrorized by criminals who are escaping the security radar because of the unlawful bars and restaurants,” Onyagi added.

The County Commissioner asked the Kenya Revenue Authority, the County government of Kwale, Kenya Bureau of Standards, and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority to ensure all loopholes are sealed.

He insisted that the war on illicit brew can only be won if all stakeholders work together.

The administrator said it’s unfortunate that youth in the county are sinking into drug and substance abuse.

He noted that there has been a surge in hard drug usage which has rendered a large percentage of the youth unproductive.

He said the RRI will design a special program that will educate the youth on the dangers of using banned drugs and substances.

In addition, Kwale County Executive Committee Member for Tourism Trade and Enterprise Development, Naibu Nyahi said the county government will revoke all licenses of bars and wine and spirits which are violating the alcoholic regulations.

”We built a drug rehabilitation center at Kombani and the progress is positive, some addicted youths have been rescued from that vice. We are still working on some plans to ensure we construct a rehabilitation center in every Sub-county,” Nyahi added.

The county executive said the Covid-19 restrictions in bars are spurring the consumption of dangerous illicit brews.

Coast Regional Manager for NACADA, George Karissa said there have been disturbing reports of primary school children caught in the drug saga.

He added that the authority has arrived at a strategy of fighting the vice right from the primary school level.

‘‘We fear that our young generation is slowly being destroyed by this venom. We must be very innovative and combat this habit,” Karissa said.

The Coast NACADA Manager noted that the authority has partnered with the Ministry of Education to introduce subjects that deal with drug and substance abuse.

”The life skills program in schools which used to focus on HIV/AIDS will incorporate lessons on drug abuse. Such awareness will help children to know the dangers caused by banned substances,” he said.

He said the level of drug abuse by the youth has reached ‘disastrous level’ and there was need to rope in various stakeholders and intensify the campaigns to stamp out the vice in the communities.

Karissa urged the government and society to view drug addiction as a disease and find a proper cure for it, and called for active participation by community members in the fight against drug abuse to save an entire young generation from doom.

He asked wine and spirits owners to strictly follow the terms of their licenses.

He noted that the majority of them have allowed their customers to dispense their products on site as opposed to takeaways.

By Raymond Zaka and Hussein Abdullahi

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