Opposition MPs lawmakers yesterday walked out of the National Assembly to paralyse the approval of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s memorandum on the Excise Duty Bill, 2015. But the walkout did not stop the Jubilee lawmakers from approving the memorandum which passed with just a simple majority.
The Opposition lawmakers complained that the Sh10 tax per litre of fruit juices will make the commodity too expensive for the poor in the country to whom juice is already a luxury.
The President’s recommendations is that all juices “including grape must, and vegetable juices, unfermented and not containing added spirit, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter” must be slapped with the Sh10 tax per litre.
Motorcycles, many of them now in demand due to the bodaboda business, will also now be slapped with Sh10,000 tax per unit, while second-hand cars of less than three years will attract Sh150,000 tax, and those above three years from the date of manufacture will cost Sh200,000. There’s also a tax of Sh2, 500 for every 1,000 sticks of cigarettes.
Minority Leader Francis Nyenze (Kitui West) and his deputy Jakoyo Midiwo led 32 other MPs including Joyce Emanikor (Turkana) who is a member of the Jubilee coalition to a news conference at Parliament buildings where they complained that President Kenyatta and his advisors were usurping the powers of the Legislature.
“The power to make laws that has been given to MPs as per the Constitution is being eroded by the Executive through the backdoor,” said Nyenze.
But as the CORD MPs addressed the media, Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) called the MPs of his coalition in the House and quickly made sure that the President’s amendments sailed through. He said the opposition had to respect the Constitution because the President reserved the right to send back Bills that he did not agree with.
Speaker Justin Muturi put the question to vote and it was adopted.
“They want to increase the price of pikipiki, second-hand vehicles and juices. Kenyans are already suffering and that is what we are trying to tell the Jubilee government. The common man has carried this problem over a long time, not anymore,” said Nyenze.
Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), Millie Mabona (Mbita), James Nyikal (Seme), Joyce Emanikor (Turkana), Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), Shakeel Shaeer (Kisumu East) and Silverse Anami (Shinyalu) all said the Opposition will now have to head to court to fight the manner in which President Kenyatta rejects Bills.
“The law allows him to send reservations to Parliament, not recommendations,” said the MPs as they complained that the President had ignored the input of the Finance, Planning and Trade Committee to the Excise Duty Bill, and sent back what the National Treasury had submitted to Parliament as a draft.
“If you look at the memorandum from the President you wonder why we have a Parliament. We might as well close Parliament and have laws made by State House… We can’t have a country where the rich are doing very well yet the poor are footing the bills,” said Millie Mabona (Mbita).
Emanikor, the only Jubilee MP in a sea of CORD lawmakers at the news conference, said she “came from Turkana to pass pro-poor laws” but the newtaxes on bodabodas, juice and second-hand vehicles were not what she signed up for.
“We cannot fight poverty by oppressing the poor further,” said Emanikor.
Wamalwa complained that while he was whipping MPs to raise the two-thirds majority to defeat the President’s memorandum, Duale was telling the MPs to leave.
For Duale, MPs had approved the budget and they had no option but to approve the tax measures to make sure the government can afford to meet the programmes included in the budget for the current financial year.