Harsh penalties await Mt Kenya hustlers in war on alcohol abuse

Murang’a County Bar Owners Chairman Simon Njoroge Jogoo. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Manufacturers who adulterate alcoholic drinks will be fined Sh10 million or serve 10 years in jail, or both should a proposed law be passed by five Mt Kenya region counties.

According to the Bill, the distributors of adulterated alcoholic drinks and sellers will be fined Sh2 million or serve a prison term not exceeding two years or both and a fine of Sh500,000 or an imprisonment of two years respectively.

The proposed laws contained in the Model County Alcoholic Drinks Bill 2023, which will be tabled in Nyeri, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga, and Kiambu county assemblies also seek to forfeit the accused person’s licences and block anyone found guilty from applying for the same.

“Every licensee who is convicted of an offence under this Act shall produce his licence to the court convicting him, and the court shall endorse every such conviction on the licence and the relevant administrative officer of the court shall inform the relevant county committee,” reads the proposed law.

In a proposal that may open a new litigation battlefront between the county governments and the bar owners, the Bill seeks to bar owners from encouraging alcohol consumption.

“A licensee shall not award, grant, or give to a person an alcoholic drink for consumption in or outside the licensed premises without any consideration equivalent to the market price of the alcoholic drink”, the Bill reads.

Should the proposal see the light of day, licensee shall not promote any alcoholic drinks in such a manner as to encourage more consumption where anyone who contravenes the proposal will be liable for a fine exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

The Bill requires retailers of alcoholic drinks to display signposts, in the prescribed manner and contents, informing the public that the sale or the availing of alcoholic drinks under the age of 18 is prohibited by law.

The signpost, the proposed law directs, must be displayed on a surface measuring not less than 12 inches by eight inches in size and must bear the word ‘Warning’ followed by the prescribed health warning and shall be enclosed by a rectangular border that is the same colour as the letters of the statement.

“A retailer who contravenes any of the provisions of this section commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh50,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both,” the Bill reads.

 Drunkards have not been spared either. For those who will be convicted of being drunk and disorderly on more than three occasions, the Bill gives the convicting magistrate to order him or her to undergo, at his own cost, rehabilitation in a public health institution.

The Magistrate will also be required to report the person to the Sub-County committee who will then investigate to know the bar where the convict drank for monitoring.

“Until a period of 12 months has passed without any further such conviction to the accused, any licensee so informed who sells or supplies alcoholic drinks to or for delivery to that person commits an offence, and it shall be an offence for that person to be in possession of any alcoholic drink,” the bill reads.

The proposed law requires the retailers to establish mechanisms of ensuring that they don’t sell alcoholic drinks to drivers and police officers as those who sell to drivers will be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month.

Those who sell alcoholic drinks to an authorised officer or to an officer in uniform or who ‘harbours or suffers the police officer to remain in licensed premises’ are liable to a fine not exceeding Sh50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both.

 In the bill, a holder of a hotel alcoholic drink license shall not sell alcoholic drink to a person other than a lodger “unless in an area situated in premises within the hotel where the holder possesses a general alcoholic drink retail license where the sale of alcoholic drink occurs under conditions for a general alcoholic drink licence. The holder of the hotel alcoholic drink will also not be allowed to sell an alcoholic drink in the area designated as the dining area.

“A person who contravenes the provision will be liable for a conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.”

The Bill seeks to introduce the County Liquor Licensing Committee and the Sub-County Alcoholic Committees with judicial powers consisting of officers from national government and county governments.

The Sub-County Committee will publish the list of applicants for licences at the office of the Sub-county administrator for a period of not less than 21 consecutive days and send the list to the Inspector-General of Police and will hear petitions of objection to licences.

The Bill is a follow-up of the efforts by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who in May convened members of the five county assemblies for a three-day forum in Naivasha to come up with a common law that will help in the fight against alcohol consumption in Mt Kenya region.