Matatu operators protest against new tax on fuel as some hike fares

Motorists and residents of Nakuru demonstrate along Kanu street in Nakuru town yesterday. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Transport was yesterday paralysed in various parts of the country as operators in the public transport sector protested implementation of the new fuel levies.

In Nakuru town, matatus, taxis and boda boda operators poured into the streets with empty vehicles, which they used to barricade several roads.

The demonstrators, led by Nakuru Town Matatus Operators Chairman Abdul Noor, called for immediate resignation of National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich for going against the National Assembly directive to temporarily halt the 16 per cent taxation on petroleum products.

Residents of Nakuru County regretted that the Jubilee administration had failed to address most of its promises.

“During the campaigns period, the Jubilee administration approached us with many promises, which made us unanimously give them a second term in office. We are shocked by the manner in which the same Government has started mistreating us,” said John Ngigi, a driver.

He urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to assent to the amendments in the Finance Bill, 2018, to ensure sanity was restored in the determination of prices of various commodities.

Passengers from Nakuru to Nairobi were yesterday paying Sh500, up from Sh300.

The cost of super petrol in Nakuru was Sh128 and that of diesel Sh115.

Mololine Operations Manager David Kahiga said they were forced to hike fares as they could no longer comfortably operate with the hiked fuel prices.

Gilgil MP Martha Wangari warned that the new levies spelled doom for the country.

She said the increase would see a sharp rise in cost of basic goods for ordinary Kenyans. She called for its review.

In Eldoret town, hundreds of passengers were stranded as transport operators increased fares to various destinations.

Some passengers opted to cancel their journeys after learning that fares had increased by as much as Sh300.

At Great Rift Shuttle services, fares rose from Sh800 to Sh1,000 for passengers travelling to Nairobi.

At North Rift shuttles, there were long queues of passengers struggling to get tickets. The service maintained the usual fares of Sh800.

Farmers in the North Rift also protested the new levies, fearing high operational costs on mechanised agriculture.

The farmers called on Uhuru to step in, noting that cost of ploughing would hit Sh6,000 per acre due to high cost of diesel.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Lurambi MP Titus Khamala said it was wrong for the Treasury CS to ignore an earlier decision by MPs to postpone implementation of the new levy until 2020.

Speaking at St John’s ACK in Khwisero Constituency, Mr Oparanya said the Constitution gave MPs every right to make decisions on issues affecting Kenyans, and that their opinion must have been respected.

His sentiments were reiterated by Mr Khamala, who said if the CS did not withdraw taxes on petroleum products, he would introduce a Motion to impeach the latter in Parliament.

Governors from the Mt Kenya region also asked the President to heed to public outcry and scrap the 16 per cent VAT on petroleum products.

Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia, who chairs the Central Kenya Economic Bloc, said the tax increase had adversely affected locals, who already had low incomes.

Governors from Central Kenya Economic Bloc (from left) Kiraitu Murungi, Francis Kimemia, Muthomi Njuki, Ann Waiguru and Nderitu Mureithi address journalists at Panafric Hotel yesterday over increase on fuel price increase. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said they had faith that the President would act according to the people’s will and scrap the levy.

Other governors present at the meeting that also discussed Central Kenya’s welfare included Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Nderitu Muriithi (Laikipia), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi). Lee Kinyanjui of Nakuru (in Rift Valley), was also present.

At the Coast, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho asked the Government to revoke the VAT.

This, as Kongowea market traders said prices of farm produce had gone up, as fares to several routes like Bamburi-Mombasa increased by 50 per cent.

Joho said the tax would push prices of basic goods through the roof.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo said the new tax had hit the poor hard, as they would not afford basics like food and shelter.

Yesterday, commuters in Mombasa and Kilifi complained of hiked fares, with passengers from Kilifi’s Mariakani township to Mombasa paying Sh300, up from Sh100.

On Sunday, Coast Bus official Ahmed Awadh said the company had not hiked fares.

Methodist Church of Kenya presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura also warned that the tax hike would lead to inflation and affect the low income earners more. He spoke at Kaing’inyo Methodist Church in Imenti North on Sunday. 

[Kennedy Gachuhi, Antony Gitonga, Wainaina Wambu, Jessica Kageha, Titus Too, Felix Odhiambo, Bernard Sanga and Darlington Manyara]

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