Advertising bill board of Mombasa County Governor Ali Hassan Joho put a long Mombasa Malindi road. Governor aspirants in Mombasa County claim he has denied them space for putting advertising campaign boards. 27th June 2017. Photo Omondi Onyango/Standard
The stage is set for a confrontation between two Mombasa governor candidates and county government officers over the erection of billboards in the county.
Nyali MP and Vibrant Democratic Party (VDP) aspirant Hezron Awiti put up his first billboard at the Buxton junction near Nyali Bridge yesterday, while his Jubilee Party counterpart Suleiman Shahbal has announced he will put up 20 billboards tomorrow with or without the approval of the county administration.
This emerged as County Transport and Infrastructure Executive Taufiq Balala ordered Mr Awiti’s billboard pulled down and warned that no such structures would be allowed without approval from the county administration.
The two candidates claimed Governor Hassan Joho had put up many billboards in strategic places while denying them a chance to do the same.
But Mr Joho’s administration said those complaining had sought approval for their billboards late unlike the governor who was cleared as early as January.
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The Joho government also said billboard advertising is controlled by private firms, which those complaining should contact. The officials further said the governor had also not received all the approvals he had asked for.
There was tension at Nyali Bridge when a contingent of county government askari watched as the Awiti group erected a structure and vowed to guard it. The group accused the county administration of denying the governor’s rivals a chance to put up their billboards alongside his.
But addressing a press conference at the governor’s office, Mr Balala said the structure would be demolished because Awiti was not licensed to put it up. In addition, he said, Awiti had not paid for it and it was blocking the view of the nearby MM Shah Primary School.
“Anybody putting up billboards must go through our licensed advertising agents who pay us rates. That politician has not met our regulations and is merely seeking political mileage. The billboard at MM Shah is blocking the school. Definitely it will have to be pulled down,” Balala said.
His directive was echoed by the county’s Assistant Director for Advertising Ibrahim Basafar, who said it was a matter of time before they pulled down the structure.
Mr Shahbal said he started the billboard negotiations with Magnate Ventures on January 31 for 15 sites before turning to Adsite but faced the same circus after they turned him down following alleged instructions from the county administration.
“Both companies claim that since their licences are only approved by the county administration, any material that goes up must also be approved by the the county government. They would therefore not risk cancellation of their licences,” he said.
Shahbal claimed similar interference had seen more than 300 building permits not approved because the owners had refused to play ball with influential individuals in the county administration.
“Starting Thursday, I will start putting up 20 billboard sites in Mombasa County. We have tried to follow the right channels but now we have no choice because the matter has been politicised,” he said.