Disband Nairobi County and have it annexed to the national government

Some of the medical equipment was displayed outside City Hall during Governor Johnson Sakaja's flagging off to level 2,3,4 hospitals and emergency operation centers. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Nairobi County takes the trophy for being the most scandalous of the 47 counties. From the formative days of devolution under first Governor Evans Kidero to Mike Mbuvi Sonko and now Johnson Sakaja, everything about Nairobi is dismal.  

The nexus of all the negativity that perennially engulfs Nairobi is the menace of corruption perpetrated by faceless cartels, so powerful, that they siphon off Sh2 billion daily if former President Uhuru Kenyatta is to be believed. 

Sakaja promised a paradigm shift in the management of the ‘city in the sun’, but barely two years later, his enthusiasm has been deflated by allegations of massive corruption at City Hall. If anything, the stench of corruption emanating from there is overpowering; from alleged demands for kickbacks, and blatant theft, to payment of millions of taxpayers' money to obscure companies for non-existent supplies. 

And truth be told, Nairobi is worse for wear because of it. The capital city is practically dysfunctional. This is evident in the paralysis induced by the ongoing rains, the haphazard manner of building construction that constricts waterways and the regularity with which buildings, whose approvals were fraudulently acquired, collapse. Traffic gridlocks are a nightmare, housing presents a migraine and crime is part of the daily routine. The stench from uncollected garbage permeates the air.

We must say goodbye to this bad rubbish. Nairobi County should be disbanded. The juxtaposition of both tiers of government in Nairobi creates fertile grounds for corruption to thrive. As the capital city, the seat of the Executive, the Judiciary and Legislature, and home to global organisations like UNEP, Nairobi should be annexed to the national government for better management. The advent of the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) in February 2020, and the resultant benefits make a solid case for doing away with the county government. 

Hapless county officials are either held hostage or beholden to cartels that, in effect, run the affairs of Nairobi. It is easy to armtwist an elected leader by threatening to interfere with their chances of re-election, but not so with a civil serbvant. General Mohammed Badi of NMS was able to function unencumbered because the notorious cartels had no handle on him.

In two years, he achieved what two county governments could not. The Nairobi County government was prevailed upon to transfer the management of health, transport, public works, planning and development functions to NMS in February 2020. The Treasury’s allocation of Sh28 billion to NMS in May 2020 became a game changer in a relatively short period of time. 

The garbage eyesore, especially in the central business district (CBD), disapeared. Potholed roads within the CBD were re-carpeted and pedestrian walkways were created and paved. For the first time, informal settlement dwellers in Nairobi started to get clean tap water and functional dispensaries. There were obvious efforts to reclaim grabbed public land, which demonstrated a commitment to service delivery that hitherto, had been lacking.

According to the National Treasury report for the year 2022/23, Nairobi collected Sh8.16 billion, representing 22 percent of Sh36. 8 billion generated by all the counties as own revenue collections. This, however, is what was acknowledged.

Given the dexterity and reach of the cartels, and lets not delude ourselves; they are high up in government, a lot must have been skimmed off. The bulk of the money that, in 2021, Uhuru claimed was being stolen daily, is from Nairobi. What’s the logic in Nairobi, a concrete jungle, having budgets for agriculture and fisheries?

Accountability must be enforced by whatever means expedient. Nairobians deserve better, which is possible if the county were to become a department of the national government instead of running as an independent administrative unit at the mercy of political scavengers and bloodsuckers who care little about the taxpayers. 

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