Hands off our Sh400m market, Ng'ang'a warns Kiambu County

Thika Town MP Alice Ng'ang'a. [File, Standard]

Construction of the Sh400 million Madaraka market in Thika has encountered a setback due to a dispute between the Kiambu County government and the national government over ownership.

Differences emerged during an inspection tour by officers from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. The meeting was held on July 17 and led by Thika Town MP Alice Ng'ang'a and county government officers.

Traders at the market, which was destroyed by arsonists more than eight years ago, witnessed an unusual exchange of words between officers from the county and national governments, each claiming ownership of the project.

The national government claims to be the financier, having allocated Sh400 million in the 2023/2024 budget for the construction.

But the county government insisted it has the power to inject over Sh200 million into the project hoped to bring to an end decades of suffering among traders and buyers.

Speaking at the market whose facelift, the traders have been agitating for, Ms Ng'ang'a took issue with the local government for seeking to duplicate a function that should be handled by the national government.

"I want to state here categorically that this market is being built by the national government, they have given us Sh400 million, the county government of Kiambu should keep off and do other markets with the money they claim to have," said Ms Ng'ang'a.

The lawmaker upheld that while the county is mandated to oversee operations of markets from which it draws levies, the devolved unit has no financial stamina to put up such a project.

She said the Governor Kimani Wamatangi-led government should construct a low-level market elsewhere.

"The government has heard your cry and that's why we are here, we will construct a modern market with good operating structures, fencing, construction of drainage and lavatories, lighting and children-nursing rooms," said Michael Mwendwa, a director with the Housing and Urban Development ministry.

Traders' chairperson Ephantus Njeru said the project belongs to the national government. He expressed dissatisfaction with county officers, accusing them of designing their operational plans without consulting the traders.

"Waziri, we don't want markets like the one done in Githurai, Ruiru and Juja, those big buildings are occupied by birds in most of their storeys," said Njeru.

County officers, led by Trade, Investment and Tourism CECM Nancy Gichung'wa, attempted to convince the traders that the county would contribute more than Sh100 million to the project. However, the traders strongly criticised this proposal and urged the county to utilise the funds in another market instead.

The meeting continued, but the county officers eventually fled to avoid further confrontations with disgruntled traders.

Madaraka market is part of a larger effort by the government to establish markets in Kiandutu, Ngoliba, Gatuanyaga and Ngoingwa, to enhance trade in the constituency and elevate it to city status. As a result of the eight years dispute, traders are operating in a dilapidated environment.

Their stalls are constructed using old, worn-out timber with nylon paper roofs, rendering the market uninhabitable during rainy and sunny seasons.

The situation has been making the over 5,000 traders incur huge losses.

On January 2015, chaos reigned at the market for two days as traders engaged police in running battles protesting its closure.