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Sonko beats retreat on CBD matatu ban

Alvin Mwangi and Bernice Mbugua @PeopleDailyKe

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko yesterday beat a retreat and lifted an order banning matatus from accessing central business district (CBD).

The move came as a reprieve for commuters, who on Monday endured chaotic scenes following the ban’s implementation.

And a few hours after Sonko’s announcement, the High Court also suspended the ban pending the hearing and determination of a case filed by businessman Paul Kobia.

Justice Wilfrida Okwani said the restriction had caused the public great inconvenience and hurt the economy following a massive day-long traffic snarl-up on Monday. The case will be mentioned on December 11.

Through lawyer Henry Kurauka, Kobia said the public was not consulted before implementation of the order meant to decongest the CBD. He also argued that no measures had been put in place to cater for passengers, including the physically challenged.

Kobia said Sonko had, serving as an MP in 2011, moved to the court to lift a similar ban. “The circumstances have not changed to allow him to support the ban and he should not be allowed to ‘blow hot and cold’ when he understands the predicament facing city residents,” he said.

Earlier, Sonko said he suspended the ban to allow for more consultations among transport stakeholders.

“I have noted with deep concern the plight of Nairobi residents as a result of the ban, and hereby announce that the full implementation of this directive has been suspended with immediate effect,” the governor said in a statement. “It also became clear that it is necessary to have contingent measures before enforcement of such key decisions.”

He, however, maintained that the ban was part of county’s measures to decongestion the city. “I have met this morning with the affected PSV operators with a view to agreeing an acceptable solution that has less implication on all affected. During the coming days, I will continue to hold discussions with stakeholders to find the way forward,” he added.

Sonko also challenged residents  to be part of the solution to the jam problem and warned matatu operators against breaking traffic rules.

“We must all pull together to dismantle the disorganised traffic attitudes and entrenched behaviour that lead to massive loss of man-hours and burned fuel in traffic jams.”

At a city court, Kobia faulted the ban on grounds that the county government had not put in place reasonable infrastructure to ensure convenience of commuters such as Bus Rapid Transfer System.

“Such systems are put in place in countries such as South Africa, Egypt and many others prior to implementation of ban of public service vehicles in major cities,” he said.

Three matatus

And speaking after a stakeholders meeting with Sonko, the Association of Matatu Operators only three vehicles per sacco will be allowed to enter the CBD at a time to decongest the city.

Chairman Jimal Ibrahim said it will not be business as usual when all matatus jammed city streets.

He also maintained that in the long-run, PSVs will have to operate outside the city.

“ What I can tell people of Nairobi is that soon we are leaving the CBD. They should be prepared,” said Jimal.

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