Nakuru County Governor Lee Kinyanjui has dispelled widespread fears that the devolved unit’s administration would review upwards the cost of business licenses, land rates, service charges and amenities.
Mr Kinyanjui stated his priority would be to source for additional funding for urban development and enforcing collection of revenue on existing streams, adding this would improve locals’ living standards.
Speaking at his offices where he welcomed Senate’s Thursday afternoon vote to support Nakuru’s elevation to city the governor assured residents that his administration will work closely with the national governments to put in place measures to ensure the cost of doing business does not go up should the town be granted new status.
He exuded confidence that elevation of the town would spur economic growth and make it even more competitive as far as manufacturing, tourism and hospitality among other sectors are concerned.
Mr Kinyanjui who was flanked by Deputy Governor Dr Eric Korir and County Assembly Speaker Joel Kariuki further noted the elevation would create a bigger market for goods and services.
However in swift rejoinder Former Municipal Council of Nakuru Mayor Benson Mwangi Wangai expressed concern that the rush to elevate the town’s status will result in construction costs of proper infrastructure befitting city status such as housing, roads, waste management, water, sanitation and security being passed over to the residents.
“It is very erroneous to peg elevation of Nakuru Town into a city based on population alone as the county government is doing. The most important benchmark is obviously service delivery to the residents, which we all know is deplorable and would require up to 15 years to improve.
Most of the services stipulated in the Urban Areas and Cities Act before an area can be conferred to a city are nonexistent in Nakuru and it would be unwise to embrace the elevation,” said Mr Wangai
The former mayor who is also chairman to Nakuru Hotels and Caterers Association (NHCA) claimed that the County administration under stewardship of Governor Kinyanjui had not demonstrated how its low revenue base would sustain city status.
“Attaining a city status would have serious implications on investors, especially on the cost of labour for those doing business in the municipality.
There are many challenges facing Nakuru residents, including water provision, congestion, security, waste management and infrastructure. We know the governor wants to shift the burden of putting in place such facilities to the already overburdened taxpayers,” claimed Mwangi
Nakuru’s journey to attaining city status has been long and winding.
In 2017, Cabinet approved elevation of two more towns to cities, bringing the number of Kenyan cities to five, including the capital Nairobi, Mombasa port city and Kisumu.
A brief from State House then indicated that the Cabinet had agreed to amend the Urban Areas and Cities Act to provide for five cities.
Though the brief did not specify the targeted towns, Kenya’s largest urban centres behind Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu cities are Nakuru and Eldoret in that order.
“Under the proposed amendments there would be five cities, 64 municipalities, 66 townships and 80 market centres,” the State House statement said.
The Urban Areas and Cities Act 2011, states that for an urban area to be classified as a city it must have a population of at least 250,000 residents based on the last population census data.
It must also have an integrated urban area or city development plan and should demonstrable capacity to generate sufficient revenue to sustain its operation.
In August, 2017 when Kinyanjui took over as the county’s Governor, he formed a technical committee to steer the process.
In February 2019 the Nakuru County Assembly finally passed a key bill that paved way for development of legal framework needed to support the devolved unit’s elevation to city status.
The ratification of the Municipal Charter 2019 tabled before the Assembly by Lands, Housing and Physical Planning committee chairman Stephen Ngethe led to the formation of a nine-member Municipality Board in line with the Urban Areas and Cities Amendment Bill of 2017. It was later signed into law by the Governor.
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.