On any given day, City Hall is a beehive of activity. Some are trying to beat their payment deadlines, get their licences, obtain medical cards or pass legislation that govern the city. On the West side of the establishment is the Nairobi County court that deals with petty offences on the city by-laws.
On a daily basis, between 50 and 70 cases are handled by three magistrates namely the chief, principal and resident magistrates. The offences range from prostitution to ridiculous ones like loitering.
Approximately 10 women are arrested every day in Nairobi on suspicion of loitering in a manner likely to suggest that they want to engage in prostitution.
Challenge of evidence
“Mostly it is the women who are arrested, but it is a challenge for the prosecution to prove the intent to engage in prostitution,” said Fred Acholla, a court clerk.
Agnes Karimi recently fell victim to the long arm of the law and was fined Sh1,000 for engaging in prostitution.
Men are commonly charged for loitering in a manner likely to suggest they want to procure prostitution. Those who plead guilty are fined between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000 or sentenced to a jail term of six months.
Owing to the existence of ‘sex dens’ in areas such as Majengo, Huruma and in high-end areas such as Karen – not forgetting Koinange Street – about 2,400 prostitution cases are handled at the court annually. Dumping of waste is also a common offence that sees suspects charged with dumping.
Daniel Maroo,Shem Mboroni and Anderson Wambua were arraigned before the county magistrate court where they were charged with depositing litter in a manner likely to create dumping along Race C ourse Road. They pleaded guilty and parted with Sh2,000 as fine.
Touting and hawking
Matatu touts are also not spared by the law and once arraigned, they are charged with touting for passengers on a public street.
Hawking is a common phenomenon in the Central Business District. According to city by-laws, hawkers are supposed to wear badges and always display them conspicuously.
Shouting for purposes of hawking and placing of goods on way-leaves for purposes of hawking is an offence.
A spot check also revealed that approximately 480 people are arraigned in the court for erecting buildings without approved plans. Those found guilty pay a maximum fine of Sh100,000.
However, Acholla says that there is a challenge especially when it comes to dealing with boda bodas. He says that there is no substantive law dealing with them.
“There is no law on boda bodas, but the county usually impounds them and releases them on a fine. They are commonly charged with obstruction,” says the clerk.
Those found going against the Water Act by setting up illegal connections and discharging waste to sewer systems are charged Sh50,000.
Business owners especially hoteliers who do not abide by the public health act that are prone to a maximum charge of Sh500,000.
An additional fee of Sh1,500 per day may be applied for non-compliance.
The liquor and licensing act, which is also disobeyed by a majority, stipulates that if one does not operate within the set time-lines or fails to comply with a notice, he or she is fined a maximum of Sh500,000.