If you live in Nairobi and you have running nose you better invest in a handkerchief worth Ksh 20 or else you might end up paying a fine of Ksh 2,000 or three months imprisonment. The law requires one to blow their nose in a cloth material or a tissue paper.It is also illegal to spit in on the road. Nairobi City has a long list of bylaws which unfortunately are not known by residents and this lands them on the wrong side of the law.
These laws are however not in public domain for the residents to read and understand. Nairobi County Council has listed some of them on their website https://nairobi.go.ke/county-laws/ but they are not accompanied by the penalty or punishment for breaking the law.
How to get a copy
Those who want a copy of the law to read comprehensively and understand , have to go to CityHall Annex Building 12th floor. It is important to note that the lifts have not been working for month continuously and on and off the previous years. In short you have to prepare to climb 12 floors to get a list of the existing bylaws, their price and code.
With this code, you have to go to cash office on ground floor where they will write for you some note. Then, you have to go to Co-operative bank and pay the amount required. After paying, you have to go back , climb 12 floors and get your copy.
There are 18 bylaws and 5 proposed bylaws. Each of them has between 2 to 15 pages. It is important to note that one page will cost you Ksh 100 to print. When RoGGKenya asked why they charge Ksh 100 yet the normal amount charged to print black and white document in Nairobi is between Ksh 5 and Ksh 20 the officer in charge said that she found it that way. It would be expected that a government institution should charge less but that is not the case.
If you want to read and understand all the bylaws it would cost you Ksh16,000 .This explains why many residents don’t bother to buy the document.
Failure by the county council to post a comprehensive list of bylaws on their website, the struggle and the cost of accessing the documents undermine the spirit of access to information and create a gap for corruption.
For these reasons, RoGGKenya has compiled a list of some bylaws and their penalties for the readers to understand better.
Frequently flaunted laws
These are some of the laws that are flaunted every day in the streets of Nairobi. All you have to do is walk around and you will have a first-hand experience. Unfortunately, it has become too common that some Nairobi residents don’t know they are illegal
- Making any kind of noise on the streets. This law is punishable by a fine of Ksh 2,000 or three months in prison. A spot check by RoGGKenya around the streets of Nairobi and the estates however, shows a different picture. There are hawkers shouting and calling for buyers, preachers by the streets and bus stops, matatu touts hooting calling for passengers (which is also illegal) while their drivers are hooting. There is also loud music to accompany all these.
- Each person engaging in hawking must have a badge and wears it at conspicuous place. A spot check by RoGGKenya reveals that there is no hawker wearing a badge in Nairobi estates or in the CBD.
- Defacing any building by writing signs or grafting. This is another law that is not observed, many buildings have writings on them, especially business premises and other institutions. They are also not observing the laws that requires business owners to paint their buildings annually.
- A landlord should ensure that the frontage of a building is kept clean, in a good condition and well repaired.
- A building owner should ensure installation of security lights in the front of the building.
- Loitering, importuning or attempting to procure a female/male for prostitution purpose is also illegal. It is however not clear how the county council officers identify people who are loitering. The law does not explain that.
- Failure to observe traffic lights or zebra crossing. This is a good law that is meant to bring order in the road and reduce accidents. Sometimes this law is difficult to observe because most traffic lights do not function. In common cases traffic officers also give directions even when the lights say otherwise hence.
- Cutting down a tree without a permit from the council. This law could help reduce deforestation but its implementation is a challenge. A spot check by RoGGKenya reveals that people cut down trees in their residential houses without permit and none has been arrested. The law however requires that all tree hedges or other growth should be chopped, trimmed or removed.
- Signaling guiding or directing a driver of a vehicle into or out of a parking place is also illegal. This law is broken everyday by people who are ignorant of the offence.
- The Tobacco Control Act allows smoking on the streets and public places but it has to be within Smoking Zones. Most of these Smoking Zones are within public toilets which expose none smokers to the smoke.
- If you have just landed in the city and you are very tired, don’t drag your suitcase or travelling bag on the tarmac. This is an offence because according to the County Council you are damaging the road and obstructing other pedestrians. This also includes use of skateboards and pulling hand carts.
- If you want to Keep a dog older than four months you have to get a licence for your premises. According to county council, these dogs bark and cause nuisance to neighbours. The only dogs that don’t require this license are those used by the visually impaired and the police sniffer dogs.
- Despite having water shortage and the continuous campaign to harvest rain water across the country, it is illegal to harvest rain water in Nairobi. It is also illegal to direct it in the sewer system. This is a tricky law because one is expected to watch the water go down the drainage even if you have no water in your house.
- If you own a car, make sure you take it to a licensed car wash because it is illegal to wash a vehicle in residential area or do a repair that requires dismantling it except in emergency cases.
- It is illegal to collect and burn your garbage in your compound. Occupiers/tenants of any building/trade premises must have a sizeable container with a good lid in which the daily domestic waste should be kept.
It is illegal to drive around when your car tires are worn out, this attracts a fine of Ksh 10,000.
Non-payment of parking fee will lead to clamping and towing of the vehicle. Any vehicle clamped must pay clamping fees to the council.
Failure to pay towing fees and other expenses incurred by the council within 60 days, may lead to disposal of the vehicle through the public notice auction.
If you want to enjoy free parking, you can do that from 2.00 pm on Saturdays, whole day Sundays and Public Holiday.
Six or more persons waiting to enter a matatu at a terminus or designated stopping place must form a queue.
What journalists can do
1.Find out the bylaws in your county, how practical they are and if they are being obeyed.
2.Have programmes and articles that sensitize the public on the existing laws and their penalties.
3.Share stories of those who have been arrested before for breaking these laws , what action was taken against them and how they handled it.
By Carolyne Oyugi