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Last-minute rush by matatu owners as new law takes effect

By Maureen Abwao | April 2nd 2014
Residents of Umoja estate, Nairobi struggle to board the 7.15am city train Tuesday. Most matatus in Nairobi were off the roads. [Photo:Standard]

By Maureen Abwao

Kenya: Matatu operators have protested the increased cost of the speed governors.

They have accused the dealers of increasing the cost of the gadgets as the deadline to comply elapsed.

Operators said the cost of the digital gadgets had risen from Sh25,000 to Sh45,000.

A spot check by The Standard at the Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit along Likoni Road, Nairobi, Tuesday showed that the number of vehicles coming for inspection had increased, with some of the owners being forced to spend the night in the cold so as to beat the long queues that were being experienced.

“We have no option other than to spend the night here for us to be cleared and be able to go back to business,” said John Karanja, a matatu owner, adding: “It is not that we don’t want to comply with the new laws but there has been a shortage of the gadgets in town and also the prices have skyrocketed from Sh25,000 to Sh45,000, which is too costly.”

Karanja wants the Government to be lenient and give those who have not complied extra time to do so as there is a shortage of the gadgets.

John Njoroge, an approved speed governor dealer of the Antonia Enterprises, who is selling the gadgets at Sh35,000, the lowest price in the market at the moment, said so far they have fitted over 400 vehicles with the new digital speed governors.

He said they were fixing at least 120 pieces a day, as the demand has gone up.

“Due to the high demand in the market, most of the dealers have had to hike the prices, however, I would say that we as the dealers are up to the task as we are able to meet the capacity as on a weekly basis we receive at least 10,000 gadgets” said Mr Njoroge.

The crisis forced most of the operators who had not complied to keep their vehicles off the road, as they would not meet the cost.

This left hundreds of commuters along Thika Road to brave the morning chill walking to work.

The commuters had to also contend with fare hikes. Most matatus hiked fares by 100 per cent.

Fare increase

“I had to part with an extra Sh30 today as the fares were hiked due to the shortage of matatus on the road,” said Evans Kimori, a civil engineering student at Nairobi University.

“The Government should have consulted with all the stakeholders involved before implementing the new rules as it is the common man who has to bear the brunt” added Mr Kimori.

For Cyprian Oduori, a security guard in Pangani, he had to wait for more than an hour to catch a matatu to Kangemi.

Some of the operators defied the order of complying with the new regulations and it was business as usual for them as they operated without the new speed governors.

The Director of Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit Jared Wangai said so far they had recorded an increase in the numbers from 6,653 vehicles that had been inspected over the weekend to 8,320 vehicles as per Tuesday morning.

“So far the number of vehicles we have inspected has increased. Owners have no option but to comply as this is not something that is coming from nowhere,” said Mr Wangai.

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