NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 11 – Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet Thursday said the responsibility to enforce traffic rules along the Londiani-Muhoroni road where 56 died following a tragic passenger bus crash early Wednesday fell on the Kericho County Commander.
Boinnet made the comment while dismissing claims that an ambiguous command structure in light of realignments in the police service could have impeded enforcement of traffic rules even as it emerged that the ill-fated bus was not licensed to operate at night.
In a joint media statement Thursday afternoon, the National Police Service and the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) said the bus whose fatal crash left 56 passengers dead and another injured only had a valid day Road Service License (RSL).
“Enforcement of traffic laws is the responsibility of the Regional Commander, the County Commander, Sub-County Commanders and respective Officers Commanding Police Divisions,” he said vowing to take action against officers who may have neglected duty.
“Initially we had one hierarchical structure called the Traffic Department with a Commandant and officers across the country but I reviewed that so that respective County Commanders have an express mandate to enforce traffic laws within their jurisdictions,” the police boss told reporters at the NTSA headquarters in Nairobi.
He said investigations were underway to establish traffic officers on duty who cleared the ill-fated vehicle past roadblocks along the road.
The police had, by the time Boinnet was speaking, arrested Bernard Ishindu Shitiabayi, the owner of the bus alongside Cleophas Shimanyula.
Shimanyula is the boss of Westerd Express Company Limited, the Sacco under which Shitiabayi’s bus licensed to operate the Nairobi-Nakuru-Kericho-Kakamega route was registered.
The Wednesday morning accident triggered debate on construction standards of passenger buses as it emerged that most public service vehicles continued to operate without shatterproof glasses designed to cushion passengers from glass cuts.
It was also clear that the bus involved in the Fort Ternan accident on Wednesday was not made continuous rolling bar a situation that led to the ripping off of the roof.
Speaking at the joint briefing with Boinnet, NTSA Director General Francis Meja said the agency had developed new body construction standards for passenger vehicle to mitigate causalities during accidents.
“All passenger buses currently being manufactured effective May 22, 2017 are compliant to the new body construction standards. The issue we currently have is what to do with the in excess of 100,000 buses that were on our roads before the new standards took effect,” the NTSA boss indicated.
According to Meja, the NTSA was considering revising the seven-year deadline within which passenger vehicles are to conform to the new guidelines from the date of the adoption of new body construction standards.
“We had given a transition period of seven years but in light of the continuous loss of lives, we want to revisit this matter together with stakeholders so that we have the new construction standard complied with sooner,” he said.
The accident attracted attention from international news agencies as it went down as one of the most devastating single-vehicle-accident in Kenya’s recent history.
United Nations Secretary-General joined Kenya’s in mourning the over fifty persons who perished saying the accident was deeply saddening.
“The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy to the bereaved families, the survivors and the Government and people of Kenya,” Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, conveyed.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had in a statement following the accident called for speedy investigations while urging caution on roads.
“My heartfelt condolences to the families of fellow Kenyans who lost their lives in a tragic road accident at Fort Ternan in Kericho County this morning and wish those in hospital quick recovery,” the Head of State said on Wednesday.
“As authorities investigate the cause of the accident with a view of taking action, I would like to remind drivers to always exercise caution to avoid such catastrophic incident,” he added.
Deputy President William Ruto called for the administration of refresher courses for drivers to avoid preventable deaths through road carnage.
“PSV companies must adhere to road safety rules; ensure their drivers are not fatigued and administer refresher driving courses to staff,” he said.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga appealed to the police to “arrest the return of madness on our roads.”