Nakuru Municipality will now be the fourth city in Kenya, after the Senate voted to support its elevation yesterday.
In a highly charged session, the Senate adopted a report by the Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, paving the way for Nakuru to become the fourth city in Kenya. The other cities are Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa.
During the session, 38 senators voted in support of the elevation, whereas two rejected it.
County Senator Susan Kihika, who had previously opposed the elevation, changed her stand and supported the move.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who followed the Senate proceedings virtually, welcomed the move saying it was long overdue.
“I am very happy. I always knew Nakuru was ripe to become a city. I laud the senators for granting Nakuru city status. This will unlock the region’s untapped economic fortunes,” he said.
The Moses Kajwang’ -led committee last week approved the application to have Nakuru Municipality elevated to a city, before tabling its report before the House after months of scrutiny.
The report will now be presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta to give Nakuru a city charter.
Street children incident
An incident in 2019, in which the county government is accused of rounding up street children and dumping in Chemasusu Forest in Baringo, returned to haunt its bid for city status. In the matter pending before the Senate Labour Committee, at least five street children remain unaccounted for to this day.
Senators took issue with the incident, accusing Governor Kinyanjui of disregarding the plight of the children.
“The street children were dumped in the forest in Baringo County, as part of a strategy to ‘clean up’ Nakuru in order to fast-track its city status. This is a grave issue. Even as I support the elevation to city status, let those involved in the incident be investigated and punished,” stated Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula. Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo asked the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to speed up investigations into the incident.
Senator Kajwang defended the town’s elevation saying the issue does not touch on conferment of city status.
For four years, Nakuru’s journey towards attaining city status has been bumpy. The idea was conceived in 2017 when Governor Kinyanjui took office. He made the push for Nakuru to become a city one of his flagship projects and embarked on an ambitious upgrade of infrastructure in the town.
Before the approval, the Senate committee met with the county executive, municipal board and also conducted a study visit of the town. The committee also held a total of seven sittings.
According to the Urban Areas and Cities Act, 2011, for an urban area to be classified as a city, it should demonstrate capacity to generate sufficient revenue to sustain its operations and have key infrastructure.
Scrutiny by the Senate Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations Committee revealed that Nakuru County local revenue generated in the past three financial years demonstrated the capacity and potential of Nakuru in its own revenue generation.
In the 2015/16 financial year, Nakuru came forth in revenue collection, with Sh2.3 billion.
Nairobi collected Sh11.7 billion, followed by Mombasa (Sh2.9 billion), Kiambu (Sh2.5 billion) and then Nakuru at Sh2.3 billion. Narok collected Sh1.8 billion.
Nakuru County recorded a 16.3 per cent growth in revenue collection in the 2017/2018 financial year, despite depressed economic activities due to prolonged electioneering period last year.
According to records at the finance department, the county collected Sh1.6 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year and Sh1.8 billion in 2018/2019.
Scrutiny by the committee established Nakuru has a proper integrated development plan. In classifying an area as a city, municipality or town, the law says approval shall be subject to a raft of other conditions that include; a population of at least 250,000 people, ability to provide services that include water and sanitation, street lighting, proper drainage systems, an effective public transport system, health services, ambulance services, and public cemeteries.
A town aspiring city status must also have a fire fighting and disaster management system in place.
The Senate committee in its scrutiny established that the population of Nakuru Municipality stands at 367,183, surpassing the required population threshold of 250,000 people as per the criteria set in the Urban Areas and Cities Act of 2011.
"The population of Nakuru town currently is 367,183, surpassing the threshold of 250,000 people. The committee therefore notes that it meets the population requirement,” reads part of the report before the Senate.
Other requirements include; demonstration of a good system and records of prudent management and a capacity to effectively and efficiently deliver its services to its residents.
The town must have a capacity for effective waste disposal.
The Senate committee established that Nakuru has done major infrastructural developments as it gears towards city status.
For instance; Nakuru is constructing a Sh174 million ultra-modern fire station at the heart of Nakuru town that is almost complete.
"The ultra-modern fire station will enable the upcoming city administration to respond swiftly to fire disasters and this will reduce loss of lives and property. It is also a big boost to fire tragedies preparedness, “said Governor Kinyanjui, in his submissions to the Senate.
The modern fire station which is about 80 percent complete is being constructed within the premises that previously hosted the Old Town Hall Chambers, near the Kenya Postal Corporation of Kenya offices.
Already, the county has rolled out several projects as city status beckons.
To upgrade infrastructure in the town, the County Government jointly with the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) in 2019, embarked on a Sh1.9 billion road modernization project to link several residential and commercial centres in the town.
About 22km of roads have been done, in the project undertaken by Chinese firm Weihai International Economic and Technical (WITEC) Construction Company.
Increasing road network
The roads that underwent upgrade included; those that serve Menengai and the posh Milimani estates, the ones accessing Nakuru GK Prison, London estate and part of the Western side of the town.
They also link Industrial Area, Kaptembwa, Bondeni, Naka, Free Area and Mwariki estates of the eastern part of the town. The project is nearly complete.
Governor Kinyanjui said the project was intended at increasing road network and mobility and reducing congestion in the town.
The county also banks on the construction of the much awaited Nakuru Airport at Lanet to open the town to the world.
The Lanet airstrip, currently used by the Kenya Defence Forces, is being upgraded to an international airport for civilian use.
The county is working with teams from Kenya Defense Forces, Ministry of Transport, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and the Kenya Airport Authority.
In 2019, the county allocated about Sh20 million for beautification and greening of the legendary Nyayo Gardens in the heart of Nakuru town.
The beautification is almost complete. Nakuru County has also started to upgrade several recreational facilities including the historic Afraha stadium.
The county administration has directed owners of buildings in the town to repaint them and ensure they are well maintained as part of the on-going beautification project also aimed at improving the buildings' ‘aesthetic value.’
The directive requires owners of buildings to ensure they are well maintained , including ensuring that pedestrian walk ways are improved, installation of proper garbage disposal mechanisms, to ensure drainage systems around their buildings comply with the Public Health Act, and the rain water gutters are fixed to enhance water harvesting among others.
The directive could also see the entire face of structures especially within the town’s Central Business District revamped to pave way to modern buildings, according to the county administration.
To fix traffic congestion in the town, the county government has set aside land for construction of a modern alternative Matatu cum bus stage where all vehicles that operated from the town centre will be relocated to.
Congestion in the Town has been a major headache since the previous Kinuthia Mbugua led administration as various Matatu saccos invaded sections of the town’s Central Business District from where they pick and drop passengers.
In 2015, then county boss Mr Mbugua relocated hawkers from the CBD as a move to decongest the town.
Governor Kinyanjui's administration is now expected to improve the planning of the town, streamline garbage disposal, address the housing challenge, street lighting, roads and infrastructure, traffic jams, eco-friendly amenities among other things key to city status.
Already, a Bondeni slum is set to undergo a major facelift after the government embarked on the construction of a multi-million housing project to be sold to Kenyans.
The State is constructing 605 housing units at a cost of Sh2 billion.
The interchanges constructed along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway are also set to ease traffic flow to and from Nakuru and spruce up the face of the town when it becomes a city.
The interchanges at the Nyahururu and Njoro turnoffs are already complete.
The interchanges are expected to give residents, businessmen and travellers a sigh of relief from years of perennial traffic gridlocks along the busy highway.
A city must also have reliable sources of energy and electricity supply. And the county government has kicked off negotiations with the Geothermal Development Company which operates in Menengai and Olkaria to tap the energy for use, when Nakuru becomes a city.
The Senate also cautioned the county leadership against haphazard increase in taxes and fees that may lead to the rise of the cost of living of residents, once Nakuru attains city status.
"The rationale of conferring city status should be beneficial to the residents of Nakuru, by ensuring their economic and social well-being is well taken care of. The cost of living should not rise drastically and any proposed increase in taxation in the future should be subjected to thorough public participation and ownership. This should include adequate sensitization of the public on the cost benefits," stated part of the report before the Senate.
Members of the business community and experts had earlier raised concern that once the town becomes a city, various charges and taxes might be raised to enable the city to support its operations. Nakuru acquired township status in 1904 and became a municipality in 1952.
In 2011, Nakuru was named the cleanest town in East Africa by a United Nations agency.