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The untouchables: How city sewer barons make their millions

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They are untouchables. Not even the daredevil matatu drivers or the suicidal boda boda operators can dare cross their path.

These are the foul-mouthed operators who haul the honey suckers. They are the masters of the road who turned kings after mastering politics of sewage, creating a niche sector from which they mint billions of shillings every year from desperate landlords and tenants.

Their operational base is Dagoretti Corner. This is a respectful distance away from their rich clients in Karen, Lavington and Lang’ata who cannot stomach the smelly trucks on the shoulders of their tree lined roads and cobbled walkways where dogs and cats have the right of way.

Contrary to common perception, these high-end residential estates do are not connected to the sewer line. Their affluent owners are supposed to have their septic tanks sucked up once they are full.

The same residences also rely on boreholes for water and have to call water bowsers to supply them with ‘clean’ water.

Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company acting Managing Director Nahashon Muguna explained that although 70 per cent of city residents are connected to sewer lines, the actual coverage was only 50 per cent.

Zones designated as low density such as Karen, Muthaiga and Lavington, Mr Muguna said, were not connected to the sewer because the owners have ample land where they are expected  to construct septic tanks.

“These areas are sparsely populated and the planners expected the residents there to have on-site septic tanks unlike in areas such as Umoja where a single plot has multiple dwelling units, necessitating a sewer line,” Mr Muguna added.

Disposal points

This explains why most exhausters and water tankers are congregated along Dagoretti area for easy access to the affluent neighbourhood to ferry clean water and empty the septic tanks.

At Dagoretti Corner, huddled in their corner on road reserve, the smelly honey suckers whose bodies are emblazoned with wisdom dripping with sarcasm compete for space and attention with their cousins, the bowsers who dispense “clean water.” At times, the water bowsers and exhausters are used interchangeably. There are an estimated 7,000 exhausters operating in Nairobi and neighbouring towns in this tightly controlled multi-billion shilling venture.

One operator, George Maina said he had different rates according to the regions.

“I charge Sh13,000 for an 18,000 litre truck in Karen. In Kileleshwa, the rate is Sh14,000. Other regions have different rates,” Maina added.

Although the treatment plant at Ruai is owned by the County Government of Nairobi, the disposal points where sewerage is emptied by exhausters have been clandestinely ‘rented’ to sewer barons who charge between Sh2,000 and Sh5,000 for every truckload emptied into the sewer line.

The cartels have zoned off the city into regions controlled by autonomous cartels and who demand a one-off membership fee of Sh100,000 for new entrants.

They have also introduced a universal fee of Sh10,000 chargeable to landlords for every truckload. This means the operator makes about Sh7,000 per trip.

It is not unusual to find some of the operators cutting corners and at times emptying raw sewerage in rivers and other public spaces at night to avoid paying disposal fee at Ruai to the cartels.

“If you are not careful, the same truck which emptied your septic tank will in a few hours bring your ‘clean water’ for cooking and drinking. Both the honey suckers and water vendors provide the same service. This is Nairobi for you,” an insider who operates from Donholm, explained.

It is a lucrative venture [Photo: Peterson Gitonga]

Kitengela slaughterhouse manager Joseph Matipei offered some insights into the kind of money the exhausters make. He said there was a time he was spending more than Sh1 million annually in emptying his septic tanks, as he is not connected to a sewer line.

“We used to exhaust two times a week because we had to get rid of 20,000 litres of waste. The exhausters would charge us Sh10,000 per trip, meaning we were spending Sh80,000 a month or Sh960,000 a year on exhausting alone,”  Matipei explained. Some apartment owners around the city who have no access to sewer lines pay about Sh430,000 per year as they have to empty their septic tanks once a week. The frequency increases when it rains owing to seepage of storm run-off water.

Against this background,some developers have devised illegal means of getting rid off their sewerage by pumping it into rivers or roads at night or illegally connecting to existing sewer lines within the city.

One insider, Kenneth Masai recounted how his friend split Sh28,000 with some supervisors after emptying four trucks of human waste from septic tanks in Jamhuri Show Ground into a corner of the same park.

“Recently, we had a three-day religious crusade at the showground. At the end of our crusade, the toilets had to be exhausted. I was shocked when a friend intimated that he had made four trips in a record two hours,” he explained.

Mr Masai’s friend, a truck driver, later confided that he had just dumped the four trucks at a corner of the park and pocketed Sh7,000 for each for the trips to Ruai disposal site that never were.

It costs Sh7,000 for a truck to evacuate 10,000 litres from a domestic septic tank in the city. This waste is supposed to be ferried to Ruai, but the honey suckers are known to cut corners.

In one of life’s ironies, the rity of the affluent and the powerful who live in posh areas of Karen and other estates such as Muthaiga are not connected to the city’s sewer line.

They are not also connected to the water pipeline and have to rely on bowsers for cooking and drinking water. Most of this water is drawn from boreholes which are sunk in the low-density estates.

Runda estate [Photo: Courtesy]

Isaac Kalua, a leading conservationist, said there are cabals who have been minting millions from the sewerage mess at the expense of people’s health.

“The exhausters are operated by cartels. They even have an organisation,” he said.

“Nairobi does not have a good working water and sewerage system. People have been allowed to sink boreholes everywhere including next to septic tanks. That is why we have so many water-borne diseases because people are consuming raw sewer in the name of water,” Mr Kalua warned.

Neglected sewerage

Water and sewerage, he said, ought to go as a package, but most policymakers had neglected sewerage because it was an unseen problem which could not earn one “political marks on a podium.”

Muguna said although his organisation was facing challenges from old and dilapidated sewerage infrastructure, this is compounded by gangs which deliberately block functional ones.

“There are some gangs who derive their livelihood from deliberately blocking sewer lines in their strongholds and preventing our technicians from repairing them,” Muguna explained.

Former Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company chairman Kabando wa Kabando said the rot is deep-rooted.

“During my time, I learnt that there were some technicians who had established a routine of deliberately blocking the sewer lines so that they could be paid once they came to repair,” he said.

“I remember there was once a members club whose sewer would start leaking every Friday, the club had to call Nairobi Water to have the leak fixed. It was strange that despite the repair the same problem would recur the next Friday,” he said.


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Courts

Fraud case opens lid into the sophisticated art of con game

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When seven suspects took to the dock to plead to fraud charges, they looked ordinary. Like any Tom, Dick and Harry – plain. But underneath the veneer of simplicity lay a suave and sophisticated lot that has opened the door to the world of conmanship.

The seven, who had purported to be officials from the Office of the Deputy President, were yesterday charged a fresh over a Sh180 million fake tender scam.

Allan Kiprotich Chesang, Teddy Awiti, Kevin Mutundura Nyongesa, Augustine Wambua Matata, Joy Wangari Kamau, James William Makokha alias MrWanyonyi and Johan Ochieng Osore appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku and denied the charges.

They were charged afresh after the prosecution consolidated their files.

They appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku after the prosecution consolidated their files.

The suspects, who duped the victim into supplying 2,800 pieces of laptops in August 2018, had forged a Local Purchase Order (LPO) purported to have been issued by a Mr Mulinge, an assistant procurement officer at the DP’s office.

Their case is a classic example of the tremendous transformation fraud – originally associated with dingy downtown areas, and targeting the naive and less educated people – has undergone in the last few years.

Lately, the majority of the victims – as the recent case of a high-ranking diplomat – are well exposed people.

But what has baffled detectives is the fact that some of the serious fraud cases are executed in high-level government and security offices.

According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the State House, Harambee House, Harambee House Annex, the United Nations, the Department of Defence (DoD), Jogoo House police offices and Afya House, are among places where fraudsters have either pitched tent, or purported to operate from.

The Economic and Commercial Crimes Unit of the DCI is currently investigating a case of fraud involving millions of shillings by suspects posing as UN staff.

The gang, including a man and a woman who the DCI a fortnight ago listed as wanted persons, are also wanted for bank fraud offences.

The DCI, in a notice in the newspapers, indicated that Gerald Gatheru Mwai and Gladys Mwara Kamau, were wanted following a warrant of arrest issued by a Milimani court in Nairobi, on October 16.

Apart from the case before court in which a warrant of arrest was issued against the duo, the two are also said to have been duping unsuspecting businessmen over nonexisting tenders at the UN.

The victims are issued with fake Local Purchase Orders (LPOs) after parting with some money, and would be directed to specific companies to purchase tendered goods, especially drugs and rice, but told to pay and wait for the goods to be delivered, because the UN complex is a security zone.

Some of the victims told detectives that since access to the UN compound was restricted, they were convinced to surrender the goods to a team of ‘UN staff’ to deliver. The fraudsters would then disappear with the goods.

The gullibility has been baffling, a clear proof that no one is immune to fraud.

In the latest fraud case involving Sh300 million that was in court on Wednesday last week, the victim, Haile Menkerios, is said to have served in different senior positions within the UN.

The suspect, businessman and former Embakasi East parliamentary aspirant

Francis Mureithi, is alleged to have defrauded Menkerios under the pretext that he could help the diplomat secure a food supply tender at the DoD.

Menkerios, 74, has served as the Head of UN office to the African Union (UNOAU) and as a Special Representative to the African Union.

He has also served as the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan.

According to Psychology professor Robert Cialdini, people fall for scams due to a number of reasons, including the principle of reciprocity or enforced indebtedness used to elicit unwise action from the targeted victims.

“Not all fraud victims are risk-taking and greedy individuals seeking to make a quick shilling. They come from a variety of socio-economic, educational, age and gender backgrounds,” a senior detective at DCI headquarters said.

And the fraudsters are not the ordinary slinky characters who operate covertly. Some of them are ubiquitous characters who use their community and professional credibility and respectability to con.

In most of the cases, fraudsters disguise themselves as employees of certain institutions and forge LPOs and letterheads to send fake tender bids to unsuspecting companies or businessmen with requests to supply goods.

DoD In another case at DoD in August this year, the once high flying former assistant minister Danston Mungatana was arrested by detectives from Kilimani DCI together with Collins Paul Waweru for the offence of obtaining money by pretences, forgery and making of a false document.

The two had obtained Sh1 million by pretending they were in a position to help a business person to secure a non-existent Sh70 million tender, purportedly to supply cereals and building materials to the DOD. After the complainant parted with Sh1 million, she was called to a Nairobi hotel to meet “a senior officer who would help push the alleged business opportunity”.

AFYA HOUSE

In March this year, detectives arrested Mercy Waihiga Wanjiku alias Linda Masake Mugundu for obtaining goods valued at Sh37 million from a businessman in another fake tender at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Afya House.

Wanjiku, together with other suspects, posed as senior MoH Health officials and lured Eastleigh businessman Ibrahim Adan to deliver 20,000 boxes of hand gloves, 1000 pieces of non-contact infrared thermometers and 579 boxes of face masks worth Sh37 million.

The meetings -to award the fake tender MOH/DPPH/DNMP/001/GFONT/2019- 2020 dated May 4 to Rocketway Construction Ltd -were held at the boardroom used by the Human Resources department. According to the businessman, every time he visited Afya House, he would find the ‘officials’ waiting for him and they would quickly whisk him past the security officers at the reception.

by Zadock Angira, PD.co.ke


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Lifestyle

Mum celebrates petrol station attendant who shielded her daughter at night

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“I will forever be grateful to this guy,” Kihangu Veronicah said as she shared a photo of a petrol station attendant who saved her daughter’s life.

Limuru mum celebrates petrol station attendant who shielded her daughter at night

Peter Elegwa worked the night shift that day. Photo: Shell
Source: UGC

The grateful mum narrated how Peter Elegwa shielded her daughter from the danger in the dead of the night after she failed to make it home in time.

According to the Facebook user, her daughter was caught in traffic past curfew hours on Saturday, November 28.

The driver of the matatu she had boarded decided to drop the passengers before they reached their destinations.

 

Limuru mum celebrates petrol station attendant who shielded her daughter at night

Peter, the man who watched over Kihangu’s daughter. Photo: Kihangu Victoria
Source: Facebook

The driver then turned away as he was not willing to spend one more minute on the God-forsaken road.

Kihangu’s daughter decided to trek the rest of the way despite it being pitch black outside.

It was around 10.30pm and the rain had started pouring so she had to consider seeking shelter while the rainfall subsided.

“She arrived at Shell Petrol Station and this guy sheltered her and provided my daughter with a seat as she waited for me to sort out her transportation,” the happy mum recalled.

Kihangu further explained that Peter made sure her daughter was safe till 11.15pm when a car was sent to pick her up.

She praised the kind employee and thanked him for his heart of gold.

by Tuko.co.ke


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Lifestyle

Kiambu: Suspected thieves exhume body of COVID-19 victim four days after burial

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Residents from Kamirithu village in Limuru, Kiambu county are still recovering from shock after they woke up to an exhumed grave on Tuesday, December 1.

Kiambu: Suspected thieves exhume body of COVID-19 victim four days after burial

The suspected thieves dug up the grave of a COVID-19 victim. Photo: UGC.
Source: UGC

The grave of 15-year-old Ian Kamau who was buried on Thursday, November 26, after losing the fight against COVID-19 was raided by suspected thieves who were reportedly looking for any valuables that many have been buried with the victim.

According to the residents who condemned the bizarre action, the suspected thieves did not touch the remains of the teenager or his coffin but left the grave ajar.

“This is not good at all. Those people were just uncovering the wounds of the family which is already trying to move on,” one resident told the media.

Officials from the Ministry of Health who arrived at the scene together with police officers said they will investigate the matter as they filled up the grave.

The locals also asked the law enforcers to beef up security around Ian’s graveyard and to enhance the lighting in the public cemetery.

by Tuko.co.ke


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