Lamu police on the spot over bribes in contraband sugar crackdown

Lamu county police commander Muchangi Kioi together with other officers displaying the contraband sugar impounded in Lamu during an operation.66% of the sugar has been confirmed to be unfit for human consumption PHOTO: NATASHA NEMA.

Lamu, KENYA: Police in Lamu are on the spot for allegedly demanding bribes during the ongoing crackdown on contraband sugar at various shops and stores in the region.

Residents and locals leaders have accused the police of demanding a bribe of between Sh.5000-10,000 whenever they raid shops and stores during a crackdown.

Mkomani ward MCA Yahya Shee said the war on contraband can never be won if the police turn the entire process into a cash cow.

He said the police habit of taking bribes so that they can do their job is wanting.

Shee wants the government to probe the situation and have any culpable officer prosecuted.

“If they do this, then that only means contrabands will never stop coming to Lamu since they are making money out of it. If someone is found culpable, let them be arrested and charged. Some of these officers go begging for money from shop to shop and it makes the reputation of the entire force look pathetic,” said Shee.

Traders in Lamu have however vowed not stock any sugar in their shops citing too many frustrations from police.

Omar Athman who is a trader in Lamu town he grew tired of police visits who would demand bribes whenever they spotted sugar on the shelves.

“They would come daily and if there was sugar on the shelf, I would have to part with Sh.5000 whether I like it or not. They didn’t even care that my sugar was safe and legal. For them its money for that sugar to remain on your shelf otherwise they can really make your life hell. So now I don’t sell sugar anymore,” said Athman.

He said many traders who refuse to bribe police always find themselves in trouble as the visits only become so frequent until “you give them something”.

The traders are also accusing the police of assuming that every sugar is contraband without even subjecting it to the necessary tests.

“Since the contraband crackdown started, now every sugar has become contraband. They see sugar in your shop they take it and arrest you. To make life easy for myself, I don’t stock sugar anymore. We have to wait until this issue dies down but for now, life is as sugarless as can be,”said Peter Jillo.

Another trader Yasmin Munna says “I understand that the police must move around with officers from KEBS so that they cabn help them help them tell the difference between contraband and real sugar otherwise,the police cant claim they can do so just by looking.Unforunately for us,they aren’t giving us peace and that why we’ve decided not stock the commodity until all this madness is over.

In reaction, however,Lamu county police commander Muchangi Kioi denied the allegations and termed them lies.

Kioi said such malicious information is being spread by those whose contraband sugar and other illicit items were seized by police and that their intention is to drag the name of the police force in the murk.

He called on those with proof of the allegations to submit to his office or go to court since corruption is an offense punishable by law.

“Such allegations are damning. But I think those creating such lies are those involved in the contraband business but we shall stay focused and do our job and do it by the book. But is someone has the evidence, let them bring it to my attention for action because corruption is a serious offense,” said Kioi.

The situation has caused a sugar scarcity in Lamu as residents now struggle to adjust to a sugarless life as traders refuse to stock it.

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Residents reported that the few retailers who still stock the commodity have taken full advantage of the situation and are selling at ridiculously high prices.

While a kilo of sugar would initially retail at between Sh.90-100 its now going for between Sh.200 and 250.