Nairobi’s historical open-air Toi Market which has suffered several incidents of arson will be re-built to a modern facility and properly secured.
The County Assembly has approved a Motion moved by the Leader of Majority, Jateso Peter Imwatok, for the County Executive to allocate sufficient funds in the 2023/2024 Financial Year towards construction of a new market.
Consequently, the House Budget committee is expected to avail a budget allocation for construction of a modern market at the ruins of Toi Market, with a perimeter wall to secure the public facility, Mr Imwatok said.
A proposal has also been floated to change the name of the market to Raila Odinga Market as a permanent solution is sought to safeguard the facility in public interest.
On June 11, 2023 thousands of traders at the famous Toi Market lost their stocks running into hundreds of millions of shillings when an inferno believed to have been caused by arson razed down their stalls at night.
Mihang’o Ward MCA and Deputy Speaker, Kados Kiguathi seconded the Motion. He said it was a timely move by the County Assembly in the interest of the affected traders and thousands of other city residents who rely on the market.
Members of Nairobi County Assembly (MCAs) said Toi Market has been razed down severally by design to chase away the traders and give way to land speculators acting in cahoots with potential grabbers and buyers.
When governor Johnson Sakaja addressed the Third Assembly in October 2022, he vowed to secure all the public utility land in the county and have it titled.
The word ‘toi’ in Nubian language means forested area. According to former Nairobi City Councillor and football administrator Noordin Taib, Toi in Kibra (commonly known as Kibera) was originally a forested area with Nubian community settlements.
He explains that initial inhabitants were Nubian soldiers who had fought in the First and Second World Wars. They settled in the area with their families upon their return after serving in the wars.
Taib says public development in the county area dates back to the 1970s when the defunct City Council of Nairobi built a primary school in the area. The Mayor of Nairobi, Her Worship Margaret Kenyatta (RIP) officiated at the opening of the school which was named Toi Primary School.
“When Nairobi Mayor Margaret Kenyatta opened Toi Primary School, she declared the area would henceforth be known as Toi for purposes of planning and development activities by the City Council.” Taib told The Informer Media Group.
Mayor Kenyatta was a daughter of the first President of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. She served as Mayor of Nairobi City from 1970 to 1976.
In the House resolution on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 the County legislators recommended the construction of a purpose-built market that would be done in collaboration with administrative authorities, the community leaders and stakeholders.
They said such involvement would ensure the design and construction works were inclusive to meet specific needs of the traders and the community. Further, the Assembly also wants a timely completion of the market because it was the traders’ means of livelihood.
The new market is expected to have proper infrastructure and facilities, including sheltered stalls, storage areas and sanitation facilities among other utilities that will ensure a more conducive trading environment.
According to the acting Chief Officer for Markets and Trade, Godfrey Akumali, the County Revenue Sector collected Sh1,200, 000 in cess from Toi Market during the 2021/2022 Financial Year.
“In this Financial Year 2022/2023, we have so far collected Kshs.879, 815, 000.” Akumali said in a statement.
Briefing the media after the Motion received unanimous approval by the House, Imwatok asserted that the Budget committee chaired by Mabatini Ward MCA Wilfred Odalo now had the backing of the Assembly through the resolution, to allocate funds for construction of Toi Market.
“The Assembly has tasked the Implementation Committee Chairman Geophrey Majiwa to ensure due diligence is done once the Budget is passed so that procurement process is immediately initiated under the County Emergency Fund”, Imwatok explained.
The Makongeni Ward MCA pointed out that Toi Market programme could kick off with a perimeter wall first to secure the premises.
Construction of modern market sheds would then follow, with installation of fire suppression systems, robust security cameras and adequate security personnel for the market premises.
“We want to see a proper perimeter wall, CCTV cameras, functional water hydrants and deployment of adequate surveillance by inspectorate officers at Toi Market.” Imwatok noted.
Regarding the name of Azimio Coalition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Imwatok said it would help to keep off land grabbers salivating to get the Toi market parcel of land.
“We have also thought of renaming the market and a Motion would be brought to the House to change Toi Market to Raila Odinga Market so that we safeguard the legacy of this market”, Imwatok explained.
However, the Leader of Majority expressed reservation that the name Toi could be retained if it carries a historical account of the area.
Even though, the county legislator expressed confidence that no one would attempt to grab the market land if it was fenced using public funds and renamed to secure its legacy because the area had a historical background.
“If any one can give me the history of Toi area, we will retain the name but if there is none to give us that history, I will have not choice as the Leader of Majority in this Assembly to have the name changed because my interest is to secure the market.” Imwatok told the press.
The House was told the fire which razed Toi Market was a well planned and executed scheme by a clique plotting to grab the public utility parcel of land on which the market occupied.
Contributing to the Motion, Kahawa West MCA Deonysias Mwangi Waithira urged the Assembly to have concerted effort in helping the County Executive to end cases of cliques claiming to possess land ownership documents of public utility properties in the city.
Mwangi who is the Chairman of the Committee on Trade told the attentive House he accompanied Governor Johnson Sakaja when he toured Mutindwa open market which was also razed hardly a week after the Toi Market fire.
“Traders at Mutindwa market complained about individuals who claimed to have ownership documents to the parcel of land.” He said.
Nominated MCA Lily Akoth Kidenda told the Assembly millions of shillings went up in smoke in the Toi and Mutindwa market infernos putting livelihoods of thousands of traders in jeopardy.
Lindi Ward MCA Samson Jera told the House that over the past 10 years, Toi Market had been razed three times by mysterious fires but not a single time did investigations yield results.
He noted that in the three incidents, the County Treasury had lost revenue.
“Mr Speaker, we need to ask ourselves how much has been lost in terms of revenue since Toi Market was razed down on June 11, 2023.” Jera said.
The Lindi Ward County legislator said Raila Odinga had defended the market from land grabbers over the past 30 years.