Lamu activists and lobbies have urged anti-corruption agencies to investigate “irregular” dismantling of solar-powered streets lights by the county government.
The Sh40 million project was a 2014 brainchild of former Lamu governor Issa Timamy and was co-funded by various entities, including Diamond Trust Bank , Kenya Commercial Bank, ABC Bank, Gulf African Bank, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Airports Authority and British High Commission.
The initiative ensured that at least 100 solar-powered street lights were erected from the Lamu seafront all the way to Wiyoni in the historical town, and onto the boundaries of the King Fahad County Hospital.
They were intended to provide better lighting for the islanders who had for many years operated in a poorly lit environment.
The project also aimed at sprucing up Lamu Old Town’s image to attract investors and boost the local hotel and tourism industry.
Activists drawn from various civil society organizations, including Sauti ya Wanawake wa Lamu, Lamu Youth Alliance, Lamu Council of Elders as well as the Coast Indigenous Peoples Rights expressed anger over the move and demanded thorough investigations to establish were the lights were taken after being pulled down.
Led by Is’haq Khatib, the activists said they were aware that some of the lights were acquired by private individuals working for the Lamu County government.
“The solar lights have now been replaced with electric ones. These electric lights installed are unreliable especially during power blackouts. We need the solar lights back. They didn’t make any consultations in dismantling the solar lights. In fact. the real cost of the replaced lights has also not been revealed. We ask the EACC and DCI to intervene on this since even the Public Procurement and Disposal Act wasn’t followed,” said Mr Khatib.
Mrs Hindu Salim said there is more than meets the eye in the decision to abruptly replace the lights without following due process.
Mrs Salim said the manner in which the whole thing was conducted is suspicious and points to a possibility of theft of funds and corruption.
She wondered why the low cost solar powered lights would be replaced with electric ones which are of high maintenance cost.
“If you want to know there is something hidden, ask yourself why they didn’t even notify leave alone involved the community. Back when the solar lights were being installed, we were involved from the word go. Plus we want to know who took the solar lights, where are they. That’s wrong and they know it,” said Mrs Salim.
Locals suspect the funds have been misappropriated.
Contacted, however, Lamu Governor Fahim Twaha insisted that lights were replaced because they are dim and unreliable.
“The solar-powered lights are unreliable and not very bright. That’s why we’ve replaced them with the electric ones. KPLC is in fact installing and maintaining the street lights throughout the county,” said Mr Twaha.