They are simply millionaires.
A toilet is a necessity and for a city like Nairobi, the largest in the region, even more so.
For just Sh10, one accesses facilities in a public toilet and for years, Kenyans have seamlessly parted with the cash.
But simple mathematics will show you why the current operators – or ‘owners’ of the public toilets – in Nairobi are millionaires, some pocketing at least Sh1.8 million a month.
In one of the facilities as confirmed by Capital FM News for instance, the operator pockets at least Sh60,000 per day raking in a cool Sh1.8 million after expenses.
“Pesa haiko kwa ma ofisi (you won’t make money in the offices),” one of the operators, who spoke to this reporter, proudly said.
And truly, he is right.
Like the public toilet within the Bus Station, a hub for thousands of Kenyans transiting from various parts of the city, the operator said “they earn even more. Just stand for 10 minutes outside the facility and try to count the number of people using it. The numbers are massive.”
And true to his words, this reporter did a spot check in three different public toilets facilities and yes, the numbers are mind-boggling.
A 2017 taskforce recommended the city needs an additional 150 toilets. Of these, 50 should be within the CBD which has only 17.
– Governor Sonko’s Declaration –
A major storm erupted this week following declaration by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko that he would repossess all public toilets for use without charges forcing him to beat a hasty retreat.
Governor Sonko instead advised the operators to improve service delivery and cease internal wrangles.
He said he will only resort to scrapping the fees if they fail to heed to his warning, in a move seen as calming tensions after an uproar from the operators.
“Nairobi City Governor Mike Sonko and the entire NCCG has no issue with public toilet operators. What the city boss emphasized on is that those involved in managing the toilets should cease the internal wrangles or else the Nairobi County Government will take charge and ensure that no one pays even a single shilling,” reads a statement by the Governor’s Chief Media officer Elkana Jacob.
“The Governor does not have any interest in this matter, but all he wants is that Nairobians get better service delivery, enjoy good facilities that are free from diseases outbreak.”
Among the people ‘owning’ these facilities include influential city politicians, who “constructed” several a while back – it was a lucrative deal.
Joseph Karanja owns three blocks of toilets within the city and says they should be given a lease.
“We have all along operated without a lease,” Karanja revealed while indicating that they have already sued the County Government for that.
He owed to stay put “to ensure his workstation is not grabbed.”
He spent Sh6 million to construct three blocks of toilets, using a model he borrowed from India.
“I still have some loan to offset. Are we foreigners, for us to be kicked out from what we have invested heavily?” Karanja wondered, this time pointing some orders allegedly from the High Court, pasted on the wall.
“I rebuilt a new toilet. Which was opened by the then mayor of Nairobi Joe Aketch, as a pilot project.”
He has employed 21 youths maintaining his three toilet blocks.
His message to Governor Sonko is: “Your advisors are misleading you.”
According to Karanja, they pay Sh10,000 to the county per month and Sh120,950 annually for an operating license.
The Governor had planned to have a private company manage all the public toilets, and be paid directly from the public coffers, but ironically, a section of Kenyans who spoke to Capital FM News were against it.
“We have not complained about the Sh10. The toilets are clean than before, we get what we need to use,” Jane Mwenda, a city resident said.
For John Kiboi, Governor Sonko should instead assign youth groups to manage various public toilets facilities as a way of creating employment.
“Some of these toilets have been managed by one family for more than 30 years. Why can’t they allow other people to also earn a living from them?” he asked.
“People should continue paying the Sh10, but the toilets should be given to women and youth groups.”
Recently, police were called in to restore order after two rival groups clashed over the management of a public toilet within the city and as revealed, even influential city politicians have a stake in what is a multi-million shillings business