The beginning of the end for the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) was heralded by the swearing-in of Johnson Sakaja as the capital’s fourth Governor.
Bible in hand, garlanded by his wife, and Lady Justice Roselyn Aburili, Sakaja took the oath of office on the steps of the iconic Kenya International Convention Centre (KICC) as President-elect William Ruto agreeably looked on.
What followed was a message signalling the fate of the Lieutenant General Mohamed Badi-led NMS; it would cease to exist.
“…contrary to what has been on the media, Badi is ready and willing to return the functions taken over by NMS back to the people,” said Sakaja.
These include transport, public works, health and auxiliary services which were yanked from the county’s control in 2020 and handed to the military-led NMS.
Throughout his speech, Sakaja alternately restated the fact that it would not be easy, staying the course initiated by a man who had the ear of the Head of State.
“It will not be easy, there are no quick fixes neither are there silver bullets. There is a lot of work to be done and deliver on this future.”
And when it was Badi’s turn, his declaration set in motion a transition process of an entity that had served for two years and whose tenure was to legally end in November- following a six-month tenure by former Governor Anne Kananu.
“NMS has accomplished all the tasks given to it to do in the last two years. We will commence the process of handover next week,” said Badi.
And true to his work, he has in the past few days been meeting with the governor for briefings on their work, including yesterday when they held a meeting with MCAs-elect.
Badi has assured Sakaja that his directors and other staff will be available to assist in the transition, including organising site visits.
Sakaja’s taking over of the reins of power has, however, opened him up to the reality of the problems bedevilling the more than five million Nairobi County residents.
An ineffective revenue collecting system which has seen the county administration fail to meet its revenue targets since the advent of devolution is key among the issues on Sakaja’s in-tray.
An acute water shortage which has led to water rationing for the better part of each month is another.
According to the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), the city only receives approximately 500,000 cubic metres of water- from the Ndakaini dam and other water catchment areas- against a demand of 750,000 Cubic metres daily.
This means there has been no way to plug the 250,000 cubic metres deficit, hence the rationing.
A traffic gridlock that has afflicted the capital, largely attributed to the Matatu menace that stems from the pick-up and drop-off of passengers at undesignated points in the central business district, is also atop the priority list of the new county boss.
A revelation by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) last year that only 272 matatu Saccos are registered to operate in Nairobi against the current 420 unregistered Saccos illegally operating further compounds Sakaja’s woes.
Then there are the aggravating mounds of garbage in the CBD and in the estates brought about by the county’s deficiencies in garbage collection, lack of payment of garbage contractors and the frequent breakdown of county trucks.
Not to mention an already full to capacity Dandora dumpsite- the official county dumpsite- which is more than three times full, holding 1.8 million tonnes of solid waste against a capacity of 500,000 tonnes.
Efforts by his predecessors to set up waste-to-energy plants have hit a snag. Sakaja, however, believes there is a silver lining in the cloud that has been hovering over the capital and valiant efforts will turn its fortunes around.
To address the revenue collection inefficiencies, Sakaja has reverted the role of revenue collection to the Nairobi County Government from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). As part of ensuring an integrated payment collection, his administration announced that it would be unveiling a new revenue collection system.
“We will strengthen measures to generate and improve revenue collection through the adoption of technology in business processes to reduce turnaround times and for quality control, traceability and transparency in the procurement process,” he adds.
To achieve the revenue targets, Sakaja will also ensure an enabling business environment through the introduction of a universal single business permit, elimination of unnecessary fees and charges, paying genuine pending bills and facilitating light manufacturing hubs in every ward.
In his manifesto, Sakaja pledged to provide adequate infrastructure for waste disposal by providing waste bins in both residential and commercial areas and also deal swiftly with corruption and conflict of interest in the waste management sector.
His emphasis, he says, will be on investing in renewable power generation from solid waste to provide affordable electricity to homes and businesses, simultaneously ridding the county of waste.
There is an ongoing undertaking by the Kenyan Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) to introduce a waste-to-energy plant at Dandora dumpsite to covert the city’s over 3,500 tonnes of waste produced daily into 40 megawatts to be supplied to the national power grid.
Then there is the longest-running problem of congestion in the city which Sakaja plans on tackling by introducing a city metro commuter light rail and the setting up of safe and reliable infrastructure for non-vehicular transport with the ultimate aim of reducing the time spent in traffic jams by 80 per cent.
Decongestion of the capital by the introduction of termini outside the CBD is also in the offing. He plans to leverage on the works commenced by NMS in the Green park, Desai and Park Road termini, Fig Tree terminus, Muthurwa terminus, and the Bunyala-Workshop Road termini.
Sakaja is also seeking to sort out water distribution channels and hasten the construction of the Northern Collector Tunnel to increase supply to the city.