One of the biggest challenges that the people of Tharaka-Nithi have to contend with is the status of their roads. Indeed, some areas within the county have totally no motorable roads whether by vehicle or motorbikes an example being Nithi valley in Mitheru and Muthambi wards. The state of roads is so bad but movement within the county is simply impossible. Besides that, even footbridges across rivers barely exist with monkeys left to laugh at residents as they struggle to cross over the many within in the county.
Since independence, the small county that is sandwiched between Meru and Embu counties has had its fair share of problems, but worst of all being the poor state of its roads infrastructure, lack of water in a river-rich county that borders Mount Kenya forest as well as access to medical facilities and to be particular poor health services.
For many decades before the coming in of the Jubilee government, the county had no single tarmac road apart from the Meru-Nairobi highway. However, things changed in 2013 when President Kenyatta took over. As a reward for the loyalty and support of the people of this county to his presidency, the president launched the tarmacking of Chuka town which was an initiative of Prof. Njoka, the Vice chancellor of Chuka University, an event which happened during the celebration of 100 years since the establishment of the town.
The tarmacking was also driven by the growth of Chuka University, with its soaring numbers and need for better supporting infrastructure being of national and regional importance. This saw the tarmacking of Ndagani-Mungoni-Mount Kenya forest road; the tarmacking of all the roads in Chuka town as well as the tarmacking of other support roads that have been deemed important to the growth of the University including the upcoming Kairini farm, an initiative of the university, that has seen the tarmacking of roads to the vast land that has been championed as a game changer in the growth of the economy of the County.
One of the roads that has constantly raised a lot of heat in the county is the collapse of the construction of Chuka-Kaanwa-Kajuki-Kareni road, after the funds meant to construct the 36Km road were misappropriated, seeing only 3 km of the all-important road.
The coming in of County governments was expected to open the next phase of transformation of the counties and especially the local infrastructure. However, for Tharaka-nithi residents, the previous and present county governments have been nothing but opened a new set of overnight millionaires as the residents are reduced to paupers with nothing to celebrate about.
It is indeed right to say that for the first five years since we ushered in county governments, there was nothing to show for their existence in Tharaka-Nithi County with only a few individuals close to the governor getting rich. Indeed there was a saying around the county that if you wanted to know when the national government had disbursed money to the counties, check the local bars.
The coming in of the new regime by Governor Muthomi Njuki was to many a blessing. During his election campaigns, he had promised zero tolerance on corruption and dared the residents never to elect him if he was ever caught up in any corruption scandal. But sooner or later after a brilliant and promising start of his administration, the honey jar became too tempting to the people within the county leadership.
Question about usage of funds within the county began to emerge as a new set of arrogant millionaires from the present regime began to emerge. Within no time, complaints from the locals about the quality of work being done by the county governments were raised. Some local members of county assembly (MCAs) started complaining about what was happening in the county, however, any MCA who dared question the leadership of the county became an enemy of the governor and development projects in their wards never took off as punishment. This saw a majority of MCAs silence their voices for fear of the inevitable as the governor went ahead with his business. With that single stroke, the governor was able to silence the county assembly, which in so many ways was supposed to check on the usage of resources on behalf of the people. It is no wonder that theft within the county was left to be investigated by the national government and other investigative agencies such as the auditor general and the ethics and anti-corruption commission.
County government projects were exorbitantly priced with footprints of kickbacks all clear to see, and even when this happened, all these projects have been marked with poor workmanship.
The tarmacking of Chogoria town is a simple case of how corrupt the system is. Since the tarmacking, local businessmen and women have sent delegations to the governor protesting about a road project that was to bring jubilation and a new dawn to the residents as well as give a lifeline to the dying town. But a chronology of events has left the residents with bitter pain and undeniable disgust for the county government.
Before the launch of the project which was allegedly funded by the Word bank through the county government, business people within the town agreed to bring down their buildings to create more room for the road.
To the residents, all they wanted was a good road that would have pedestrian paths along, but what they got is a road that was tarmacked at the middle of the night as the residents had resisted the laying of a tarmac on bare soil with no groundwork being done; a road that has no pedestrian walkways and with such a width that makes it even difficult for two vehicles moving on opposite sides to comfortably use.
Their complaints were not out of nothing as indeed, a year after the roads were completed, the roads are already worn out. The local business association sent representatives to the governor to air their grievances, but to date it has all been in vain.
Their complaints to local MP Kareke Mpiuki did not yield any results, but this is understandable considering that the company that was awarded the tender allegedly belongs to the local MP.
It is not just this road that has had issues, in his first term, the governor launched the tarmacking of the Mitheru-Kaanwa road (only 7KM), a project that was allegedly undertaken by the same contractor for the Chogoria tarmac, yet 2 years later, the tarmac had been totally swept away by running water and the road worse now than it was. Residents allege that the same company has been used to murram close to all roads within the county, yet despite the company’s, poor project record, it still keeps on getting more tenders perhaps as a pointer to how the Njuki administration and the owners of the company are well connected.
Questions have also been raised about the quality of road engineers who approve these projects. But with the totally corrupt regime and the owners of these companies being in government, the answers to these questions are so clear to guess.
A pointer to how corrupt the Njuki regime has been is the board of Kathwana municipality which resigned in less than two years’ time after the new regime took over because of alleged interference from the governor. It is alleged that tenders for the construction of a road between the main road to the governor’s offices was awarded without involving the kathwana municipality members which forced the chair and his assistant to resign.
The same happened in Chuka hospital; some of the board members of the hospital resigned because the board members were not involved in the procurement process of the constructions going on and their conscience could not let them continue holding their positions.
Questions are also being asked why the governor chose to build jua kali sheds in chuka on road reserve yet there is a very big portion of land just next in a place called “Nkenya” reserved for jua kali operations. The same was done in Chogoria which are too temporary and depicts a system that has no plans for tomorrow for its people or even an idea what the people really want. For Chogoria stalls, no toilet were even constructed for the stalls, leaving the business people with no option than to help them in bushes.
From June 2nd 2020 when governor Njuki used Jubilee head office people to change the house leadership, the assembly is on its deathbed with nothing happening there apart from what the governor wants. A good example being today 27th April 2021 when the county assembly approved supplementary budget 2 for the governor.
No wonder the budget committee has been the most compromised committee because all the budgets brought to the assembly for approval have never had any amendments. The chairman of the budget committee is Karingani MCA Murithi Gaturo who according to other MCAs does everything to appease the executive.
A team of MCAs within the county including Murithi Gaturo, Derebia Nyaga (Muisraeli – Minority leader), Njagi Murandi (deputy speaker) Mbogori (Mariani), Gataya (Mukothima), Gitonga (Nkondi) Gakuota (Mwimbi), Njeri Kigwari (Igamba Ngombe), Karen (Nominated), Asunta (nominated), Anita Mbae (Nominated) Morgan (Nominated), Muthiini Karangi (Nominated) Mutegi (gatunga) Kairi (Majority leader) as well as the assembly speaker DJ Mbaya (who is supposed to defend the assembly) who dances to the whims of the governor. All these are alleged to have frequent meetings with the governor where they are tuned to support and defeat any logic in the assembly. This list also includes the clerk of the assembly who is an appointee of Governor Muthoni Njuki.
Some of these MCAs are alleged to have construction companies which are operating in Tharaka-nithi county and their unquestionable support for the governor is solely for their selfish interests. these include Gataya, Njagi, Gitonga nkondi, Njeri Igambangombe With a compromised county assembly, the residents of Tharaka-nithi County have been left on their own with nobody to fight for them apart from a few principled MCAs whose voices have been lost in the cheers of the compromised majority.
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