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Loo Wars: Police clash with rival groups over running of public toilets in CBD – VIDEO

By Hilary Kimuyu October 20th, 2020 3 min read

Police officers were on Monday forced to use tear gas to quell chaos that rocked the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) after rival groups clashed over the management of public toilets.

Members of the public were caught in the melee and were unable to access some public toilets in the CBD after armed officers were deployed to prevent rowdy youth from accessing the facilities.

A group from Starehe Constituency claimed they were being arm-twisted to surrender toilets by two groups from Eastleigh and Dandora with the help of close allies of the Nairobi governor.

“I build this toilet, and when the Sonko regime came into power. Unknown people were going round trying to take over the toilets,” said Wangeci ‘Simba’, a public toilet owner in the CBD.

Other owners described how some groups were using police officers to forcefully evict them.

“These groups from Eastleigh and Dandora have been threatening us and using police to fake charges against us yet we have all documents to show that we are the rightful managers of this toilet,” they said.

At some point the police were forced to lob teargas canisters to disperse the irate crowds spoiling for a fight.

Calm was later restored after the arrival of Central Police OCS who engaged the warring faction.

Since 2018, there has been a back and forth in the city over the running of the toilets since governor Mike Sonko threatened to take and hand them over to City Hall if the private entities failed to end their constant infighting.

The Starehe Constituency group has now called on Nairobi Metropolitan Services boss Major General Mohammed Badi to pick out the legitimate group that will run and operate the toilets.

“We are tired of these fights, let Badi solve this stalemate once and for all because we pay taxes and we have court documents protecting our group from victimisation,” they added.

The public toilet industry in Nairobi rakes in more than a billion shillings every year and is controlled by a few groups and individuals that operate like cartels.

Fights for their control are common and vicious as the groups jostle for a share of the money.

Nairobi County government said there are 68 public toilets in the city with 17 located within the CBD.

They are operated under the public-private partnership that came into effect in 1999 when the defunct Nairobi City Council engaged the business community to find a solution to the deplorable conditions of the facilities.

Many others were privatised during the regime of Nairobi’s first governor Evans Kidero.

Dr Kidero said the toilets were privatised because City Hall had no capacity to run them.

The operators were to charge a small fee for maintenance of the 517 private toilets spread across the county, mainly in the city centre, estates and markets.

A single toilet in the CBD and markets that charges Sh10 per visit can collect as much as Sh30,000 in a day while those in the estates realise between Sh1,000 and Sh3,000.

From 63 public toilets, it is estimated that more than Sh1.9 million is collected every day translating to Sh56.7 million in a month and more than Sh680 million in a year.

The 517 private ones, with an average daily collection of Sh2,000, bring in Sh1 million every day, over Sh31 million every month and Sh372 million in a year.

This money explains why the public toilet sector is fiercely guarded with even politicians once in a while being roped in to protect the operators.

The toilets are managed by individuals, youth groups, women groups and the Central Business Hawkers Association and some are run by supporters of influential city politicians, who claims to have constructed several toilets years back.