SGR WOES

MPs protest order compelling use of SGR for cargo hauls

MPs said already, truckers are suffering as a number of them have parked their vehicles for lack of business.

In Summary

• Coast leaders say order counterproductive and would lead to death of towns along Mombasa - Nairobi highway 

• Order by KRA and KPA directed that Nairobi bound cargo be moved via SGR but those for Mombasa be cleared at the port . 

The Leader of Majority Aden Duale.
The Leader of Majority Aden Duale.

Lawmakers yesterday opposed the government's directive that all imported cargo be hauled by the Standard Gauge Railway to Nairobi starting Thursday.

Citing fears of job losses, the lawmakers said the order by Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Ports Authority will be counterproductive.

In a debate following a statement by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, various lawmakers condemned the agencies for giving arbitrary directives that are not backed by the law.

 
 

Majority Leader Aden Duale led the protest saying it was “wrong that a state officer can sit somewhere and come up with directives of this nature.”

“This is a grave matter. It is serious. You cannot kill a whole transport industry by saying all cargo must be hauled by SGR. Something is not right. We have reached a state where businesses are being forced to take up such directives,” the Garissa Township MP said.

He said the country is a liberalized economy, hence, business leaders cannot be subjected to such conditions.

MPs said already, truckers are suffering as a number of them have parked their vehicles for lack of business.

"Towns are dying. We cannot only concentrate on SGR and forget that we have roads and small businesses people who depend on the same," Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai said.

"This matter is of serious concern to the people of Kenya. Precedence has been set that when a matter comes to this as a point of order, the Speaker has powers to order an inquiry and a report tabled in this House," Minority leader John Mbadi said.

"The government cannot force the people of Kenya to sanitise a project that is probably not paying the cost of investment. When SGR was being constructed, issues of its viability were raised but ignored," the Suba South MP said.

 
 
 

Later, MPs led by Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), William Mwamkale (Rabai), Ruweida Obo (Lamu), and Mishi Mboko (Likoni) echoed the sentiments in a press conference.

They said all the towns along the Mombasa –Nairobi highway that depend on freight movers will suffer business losses.

The lawmakers termed the directive as illegal saying it was neither legislated nor subjected to public participation.

They spoke even as the National Assembly summoned Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to appear before the Transport committee on Thursday to respond to the matter.

“The directive on cargo did not come to Parliament through delegated legislation or for approval as is required of regulations,” Nassir said.

“Our concerns are simple. The forceful use of SGR is unconstitutional. Other than the truck companies, the CFS and warehousing will be affected,” he said.

“Our economy will literally go down following this directive. It does not auger well with us when this is bordered on efficiency,” the lawmaker added.

He said the capacity at the Mombasa Port cannot be compared with that of the Inland Container Depot at Embakasi, Nairobi.

Mwamakale said that in case the government took the position for fear of not honouring the SGR debt, then they should utilize funds in the Railway Development Levy.

Mwashetani said the directive would result in a double charge on the part of importers, a situation he said would push the cost of good higher.

“The effect of the said policy will be gross. Furthermore, concentrating business in Nairobi will affect the growth of other towns,” the MP said.

In their joint notice published in various dailies, KPA and KRA directed that cargo destined for Nairobi and the hinterland will be hauled through SGR.

The agencies said that those meant for Mombasa and its environs will be cleared at the Mombasa Port and those not collected within 21 days of clearance will be disposed of.

“All cargo that is not declared or removed from the port or ICD within 21 days will be transferred to a designated customs controlled area awaiting disposal in accordance with the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004,” the notice reads.

Parliament dedicated the ‘zero-hour’ – 30 minutes to close of business at 7pm, for deliberations on the directive.