Crackdown on sale of illicit liquor intensifies nationwide

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021 02:00 |
Naivasha police boss Samuel Waweru (centre) and area DCI boss Adan Hassan examine some of the second-generation brew recovered from a factory in Naivasha. Five suspects were arrested and fake KRA stickers recovered during the raid in Kayole estate off the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. Photo/PD/Kirera Mwiti

Roy Lumbe, Robert Ochoro and KNA

The government has launched a nationwide crackdown against illicit liquor in the build-up to next year’s General Election. 

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said investigations have revealed that there is a serious challenge of alcohol abuse as the country approaches elections. 

According to the CS, several leaders were using cheap and illicit liquor to entice the masses to vote for them saying the same was negatively affecting the society. 

He said the intensified campaign, that will run for an initial 30 days, will target the proliferation of cheap and illegal liquor whose supply and consumption tends to rise sharply towards the elections. 

“Some people think it is time to provide cheap liquor to enable campaigns. In some cases, this trend is chronic.

This Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Matiang’i. 

Addressing Regional and County Commissioners who are expected to spearhead the crackdown in their respective areas, he said supply and sale of illegal alcohol, if unchecked, poses serious public health and safety challenges to a system that is already reeling from the effects of Covid pandemic. 

Lax administrators

The CS, who spoke at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi yesterday, also urged the administrators to lead by example and warned those struggling with alcohol and substance addiction that they would be sacked.  

“We must be candid enough to admit we have a problem from within. If you’re drunk and wobbling in public barazas, how will you implement the RRI? How can you enforce the law when you are supposed to be in a rehab centre?” he asked. 

Interior PS Karanja Kibicho said the government will put a stop to the cyclic nature of deaths from consumption of illicit alcohol witnessed during the election season by dedicating enough resources to counter the menace.  

“Around 30,000 Kenyans died from consumption of illegal alcohol or got blind around the last two general elections.

This year, we have already lost some Kenyans to illicit alcohol in Nakuru. We will support this initiative with all it takes because we are already seeing attempts to make cheap liquor available,” said Dr Kibicho. 

The crackdown has been extended to counties with multi-agency teams kick-starting the operations in their respective jurisdictions. 

In Kisii, County Commissioner Allan Macharia said the operation will involve the county security team, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) and the Anti-counterfeit Agency saying the same will be carried out in a humane and legal manner. 

“We have realised that we have a lot of products in our markets that are either counterfeit or sub-standard.

This initiative will ensure that we remove the products in our county. The operation will take place in all sub-counties, starting today,” he said, adding that liquor dealers and residents should not panic but rather collaborate with the police to make the operation successful. 

A similar operation was done in Kitui county with Mwingi Central Deputy County Commissioner Solomon Chesut withdrawing licenses for four wines and spirits outlets in the town suspected to have been issued fraudulently.   

During the inspection, the multi-agency officers also checked for validity of alcoholic products being used by scanning their QR codes on the KRA Soma Label App. 

 “We will not rest until we eradicate counterfeit alcohol and other illicit activities in this town and the rest of the sub county.

The exercise shall, therefore, continue throughout the month at random times, because we have established that the bar owners’ tip others once we start the crackdown, thus closing down their business, to evade the search of their premises,” Chesut said.  

In Kakamega, County Commissioner Pauline Dolla warned government officials against complicity in the fight against illicit brews. 

Collaboration crucial 

Dolla said that any government administrator, who will be found abetting consumption of illicit brews will face the sack.

“All the 13 sub-counties have also formed their multi-agency teams and we are going to work as a team to curb proliferation and consumption of illicit brews up to the lowest level,” she added. 

In Kajiado, County Commissioner, Joshua Nkanatha said the consumption of illegal brews was on the increase especially in urban areas and warned those involved in the illicit trade that their days were numbered.

“Cooperation between law enforcement officers and members of the public is crucial in the fight against illicit brews,” he said. 

During the operation, 520 litres of illicit brew, 15kg of bhang, six litres of chang’aa and 30 gaming machines were destroyed. 

At the same time, in Murang’a county Commissioner Fredrick Ndunga said the fight will also be directed to chemists which are selling some drugs without doctors’ prescription. 

He noted some young people have developed a habit of using medical drugs to get intoxicated. 

“Fake liquor has found its way to shelves and for the next 30 days, we will ensure only quality alcohol is being sold in all outlets in the county,” said the Commissioner. 

In Baringo, two liquor operators were arrested at Eldama Ravine after a sting operation by a multi-agency team found them non-compliant with liquor regulations. 

Compliance with law

Speaking after the operation that closed two wines and spirits shops in the town, Nacada regional manager in-charge of North Rift Eunice Arubia said they were inspecting the liquor premises to check on their compliance with the law. 

“We are inspecting liquor stores to check if they conform to set health standards as well as county liquor laws,” she said. 

Elsewhere, Eastern Regional Commissioner, Isaiah Nakoru said they will visit all the 69 sub-counties in the region, inspecting bars and business premises, with a view to ridding the area of the menace of illicit liquor and trade, that not only poses danger to the lives of people, but also the economy. 

In Vihiga, County Commissioner Ochillo Oyugi put on notice people who were selling sub-standard and counterfeit illicit and contraband alcoholic products that their days are numbered. 

 “Now that we are nearing the electioneering period this RRI is timely; it will help reduce election and post-election violence because most youths will be enlightened,” said Oyugi. 

A similar exercise was witnessed in Homa Bay with County Commissioner Moses Lilan, revealing that the area is at risk of having counterfeit drinks as it borders Uganda and Tanzania, where possibility of smuggling the drinks is very high. 

“Our operations will be led by intelligence gathering and coordinated approaches to maximise the time that we have, as well as to secure the greatest benefits out of this programme,” he noted. 

In Trans Nzoia, County Commissioner Samson Ojwang, accompanied by County Police Commander, Jacinta Wesonga and County Criminal Investigations Officer Francis Kihara, officially flagged-off the 30-day operation in Kwanza sub-county.  

During the operation, a total of 16,720 litres of Kangara, 150 litres of Chang’aa  and 1,100 litres of busaa, were impounded at Folkland and Namanjalala villages.

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