Traders at the proposed Nakuru bus park are counting losses running into millions of shillings after their stalls were demolished by the County government.
The county enforcement officers descended on the structures at dawn on Saturday and pulled them down them down, triggering protest from the traders.
The traders who were way on a long Easter break, arrived in the morning on Tuesday ready for their routine businesses but were shocked to find their stalls had been destroyed and the debris scattered on the streets.
As police officers lobbed teargas canisters at a crowd that had a field day looting property from the destroyed business premises.
However, the County Governor, Lee Kinyanjui in a swift rejoinder said his administration was repossessing public land to facilitate infrastructure development.
He said the Nakuru bus park land which had been leased to an individual had reverted to the public for construction of a modern bus terminus.
Kinyanjui said the occupier, who was using the parcel of land as a parking yard, had been informed about plans to construct the new bus terminus and issued with a notice to vacate. Instead, the governor noted, efforts to access the land had been thwarted by hired goons.
The county officers said they had instructions to remove the structures from the land as they were illegal.
But the traders said they were unaware of any eviction notice and accused the county government of stifling small businesses.
“We have been operating in this area for decades but the government is attempting to push us out of business,” said Ms. Lucy Wangare, one of the traders.
Wangare said she had incurred loss of more than Sh.50, 000, adding that the county authorities had not given them notice to vacate.
“The officers took us by surprise and caused massive destruction to property. Our valued possessions have also been looted. This government is ruthless and insensitive,” she said.
Some youths on a looting spree clashed with police officers at the demolition site as they carted away iron bars, timber, cutlery and furniture, causing a huge traffic snarl up along the busy Geoffrey Kamau Road.
Another trader, Charles Ndegwa who sells tree and fruit seedlings at a nearby nursery, said he lost property worth Sh.80, 000 and questioned why the county government did not issue them with quit notices.
The traders said they have been paying trading levies to the government without fail, adding that the devolved unit should have rejected the payments if the structures were illegal.
The governor maintained that his administration had taken firm action and evicted the occupier and could not allow selfish interests of an individual to stop construction of a public utility which he said would not only ease congestion in the town but create employment.
The Governor defended his enforcement team against accusations of vandalizing property during the eviction adding that the County administration would not be drawn into ‘cheap publicity stunts and sympathy seeking antics’.
“We have a duty to safeguard public interest and will not be intimidated, compromised or allow any obstruction in execution of our mandate. In the past, we have issued amnesty to individuals to return illegally acquired public land or have it forcefully taken away from them,” stated the governor in a statement.
By Jane Ngugi/Dennis Rasto