Honeymoon is over, Badi must prove worth at NMS

Monday, May 31st, 2021 00:00 |
NMS Director-General Mohammed Badi.

The recent flooding of Nairobi estates due to the ongoing long rains is a demonstration that Maj-Gen Mohamed Badi-led Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has a long way to go before it makes the much hyped difference in the city.

NMS was established in February last year by President Uhuru Kenyatta to “save” Nairobi.

At the time, there was broad consensus the Central government could not stand idly by as the most important city in the region, Nairobi, disintegrated due to the chaotic reign of its now deposed governor, Mike Sonko. Badi was appointed to head NMS in March 2020.

Badi took over the health, transport, planning and development and public works dockets, the most critical functions in Nairobi City County Government.

In a show of the eagerness by the county Assembly leadership to restore Nairobi, then acting governor Benson Mutura’s first task when he was sworn in was to immediately sign the governor’s warrants to release a whopping Sh27 billion to NMS. 

Money, check; county leadership support, check; staff complement, check; central government support, check. All factors necessary for NMS to quickly turnaround Nairobi were given to Badi. And yet…

Last month, flooding pushed people out of their houses, electricity was disrupted and roads were shut down or reduced to lakes. It was worse in the slums. Clearly, the entry of NMS had made no difference.

There are other equally critical areas where NMS has made no difference. Hawkers still flood the City Centre.

In some streets in downtown Nairobi, hawkers’ wares have completely blocked pavements, forcing people onto roads where they co-mingle dangerously with cars.

Garbage is back, especially in the estates, completely closing some roads. After an initial lull, water vendors have roared back with a vengeance, especially in the densely populated estates and the slums. Water rationing is yet to be cut back.

Small business are still waiting to have their pending bills settled, months after Badi promised that he would pay all suppliers owed up to Kshs 5 million.

The small businesses are still in limbo, despite news that Treasury had released at least Sh1.3 billion to NMS to pay them. Streets families have proliferated across the city centre.

These are some of the quick wins that Badi needed to have implemented if only to provide confidence to Nairobi residents that NMS represented a complete break with the past.

Nothing shows more aptly the perception of NMS impact, or lack of it, than a recent media cartoon that depicted a dilapidated NMS garbage truck parked atop a heap of garbage in CBD, with the driver soundly asleep.

It’s not only Nairobi residents who are beginning to wonder whether the change they celebrated was worth it.

The county assembly, once fully behind Badi, is getting disillusioned, too. MCAs are growing impatient for results, obviously feeling pressure from their voters.

MCAs impeached Sonko, who was very popular, and they are having a hard time justifying the action to increasingly skeptical voters.

MCAs now want Badi to account for monies allocated to NMS so far. In simple words, they are asking Badi, why did we oust Sonko for you?

NMS must change course urgently. First, NMS must improve their public communication.

Badi must realise he runs a civilian entity. He has to keep channels of communication with Nairobi residents open.

As it is now, Nairobi residents do not have a clue where to go to make inquiries of NMS. Badi will continue to ignore this at his own peril.

Secondly, Badi must be felt beyond CBD. While the rehabilitation of CBD roads and pavements is a great thing to do, it is in the sprawling settlements of Nairobi where improvements are crying to be made that Badi’s success will rise and fall. 

President Uhuru has expended a substantial amount of his political capital to bring NMS into being, and get it money to operate. Badi needs to take cognizance of this, and exercise far greater urgency to make this experiment work.     —  [email protected]

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