How 'authorities' are extorting Nairobians for not wearing face masks

Residents of Nairobi queue for matatus at Accra Road this picture taken on May 27, 2020.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Government protocols in the fight against Covid-19 require everyone using public or private transport and public transport operators to wear face masks.
  • Members of the public must also maintain a physical distance of not less than a metre.

Residents of Nairobi are experiencing increased harassment and extortion from people posing as law enforcers, supposedly failing to wear face masks.

This past week, two people narrated to the Nation how they were waylaid and threatened with arrest by persons who refused to identify themselves.

One of them was forced to part with money to avoid 'arrest'.

"I had just parked my car along Moi Avenue and was crossing the street to purchase some airtime when I was suddenly surrounded by three people," Alex Njuguna, a taxi driver, narrated.

"They did not introduce themselves and for a moment I thought they were thugs. One had a pair of handcuffs and what appeared to be a walkie-talkie covered in a piece of cloth. The other one grabbed me by the collar and asked why I didn't have a face mask on.

"I asked them to identify themselves but they threatened to cuff me. I realised I was outnumbered and informed them my mask was in the car. One of them demanded Sh500 in exchange for my freedom. I only had Sh200 which I gave them. They released me immediately."

Government protocols

David Mwihia was also nabbed for the same offence by a gang of about four mean-looking people, including a woman.

"I alighted from a matatu at around Afya Centre and was headed to work but was stopped by these people. One of them attempted to handcuff me alongside a stranger. I refused. The lady asked me where my mask was. I reached for my pocket and showed them," Mwihia told the Nation

"But they continued threatening to arrest me. All this time, none of them introduced himself. I did not know whether they were plain-clothes police officers or county government askaris. They only let me go after curious members of the public gathered around," Mwihia said.

Nation could not establish if the Nairobi county government and police have specifically assigned officers in civilian clothes to apprehend members of the public without face masks.

Government protocols in the fight against Covid-19 require everyone using public or private transport and public transport operators to wear face masks that must cover the mouth and nose. 

Members of the public must also maintain a physical distance of not less than a metre.

A person who commits an offence under these rules shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh20,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.