The Matatu owners in Central Rift Valley have raised a red flag over infiltration of organised criminal gangs in operation and management of bus termini, which they say has resulted in losses exceeding Sh50 million every month.
They have petitioned Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai to form a special unit of law enforcement agents that will be dedicated to dismantling the gangs, which they claimed besides extorting matatu drivers were robbing passengers.
At a consultative meeting convened jointly by the National Police Service and Matatu SACCOS operating with the region, the Central Rift Matatu Owners Association Chairman, David Kuria lamented that gangs had displaced public service vehicles from termini owned by county government.
Kuria further observed that the criminal gangs were largely responsible for fixing high fare prices particularly during high peak seasons such as during Easter, Christmas and New Year festivities. He called on the government to intervene as the matatu sector provided a livelihood for millions of Kenyans directly and indirectly.
Nakuru East Deputy Sub County Police Commander (SCPC), Daniel Gitavi said detectives had stepped up crackdown against organised gang members and extended the operation from bus stops to estates they are known to retreat to after committing criminal acts.
Gitavi assured the operators that following the merging of administration and regular police, the number of security personnel deployed to the Central Business District and Bus Termini had increased significantly dealing a blow to smooth operations of the gangs.
He said a significant number of arrests of members of a notorious gang had been made and mobile phones recovered from suspects yielding useful tips. The consultative forum also saw presentations from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).
A report tabled by officials from the DCI revealed that some of the criminal gangs were being propped up by former employees of matatu Saccos who had been fired for indiscipline or other reasons. The DCI detailed how some unscrupulous drivers and touts attached to respected SACCOS were being used as couriers for illicit brews and narcotics and were networking with members of organized gangs to convey the contrabands into estates.
Kuria told the meeting that though the county government had the capacity and human resource to uproot criminal gangs from bus parks, its top management was reluctant to act. In the past, influential politicians have been accused of sponsoring and bailing out of court members of organised gangs once they are arrested. The matatu industry’s concern comes hot on the heels after residents in several estates within Nakuru complained that the organised gangs were terrorising them with impunity and enjoyed the protection of a certain member of parliament.
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