Meru MCAs suspend debate on transport Bill over fears of backlash

Meru County Assembly

Meru County Assembly in a past session.

Photo credit: File

Meru MCAs on Tuesday suspended debate on public transport and traffic management Bill citing thorny issues that may draw backlash from boda boda riders, especially during the campaigns.

The Meru County Public Transport and Traffic Management Bill, 2020 seeks to regulate the matatu, taxi and boda boda services besides providing for various levies.

They also shelved the Meru County Vocational Education and training (Polytechnics) Bill, 2020.

Mwanganthia MCA Julius Mbijiwe was particularly concerned by an amendment introducing some levies where charges ranging between Sh300 to Sh1,000 on transportation of soil have been proposed.

The bill had drawn keen interest from boda boda riders who flocked the public gallery to monitor its debate.

It provides for establishment of a transport directorate, registration of transport Saccos as well as establishment of County traffic marshals.

The original bill proposes that boda boda riders belong to a Sacco of at least 100 members, operate within one route only and riders of the same Sacco wear the same color of reflective jackets.

The MCAs were to debate amendments to the bill including on requirements of boda boda operators' Saccos as well as charges for quarry and mineral products.

However, when the debate went to the committee of the whole house, Dr Mbijiwe protested that they did not have time to study the amendments.

“We received the bill and its amendments yesterday and have not been able to study them. Since we are coming to the end of our term, we cannot risk passing a bill without scrutinizing it. I request that we suspend debate until the issues are looked into,” Dr Mbijiwe said.

Athwana MCA Victor Karithi, who is also the Majority leader said there was need to study the document since it touched on a critical boda boda sector.

“Any imagination of introducing new charges on the boda boda sector when they are suffering the impact of Covid-19 cannot be allowed. As majority leader, I recommend that the bill be shelved until there is adequate consultation. We must be cautious on how we handle the transport sector which is struggling,” Mr Karithi said.

He said any laws touching on the transport sector should be done humanely to avert backlash.

Nkuene MCA Martin Makasi said the debate on the vital bill was ‘ill timed’ since MCAs were occupied by re-election campaigns.

“I am not able to concentrate on studying this bill because every time I try to read, my mind wanders to the campaign. I do not have 100 per cent concentration to pass this bill,” Mr Makasi said.

Mr Linus Athinya said there was need for caution especially now that the campaigns were approaching the peak.

“If we pass a faulty bill now, it will be used against us by our rivals. The boda boda riders will be on our case,” he said.

Meru County has had challenges in regulating the taxi and boda boda businesses with taxis operating in disregard of traffic rules while boda boda operators have failed to pay taxes.

An earlier report of the assembly indicated that the county does not earn any revenue from about 30,000 boda boda operators despite the law providing for payment of Sh20 per day or Sh300 monthly.

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