Buildings Tumble as Kenya Cracks Down on River-Bank Construction

(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan authorities destroyed one of struggling retailer Nakumatt Holdings Ltd.’s few remaining outlets, the third building to be brought down this week in a government crackdown on illegal riparian structures.

The demolitions are part of a widening state clampdown on corruption as President Uhuru Kenyatta seeks to improve controls over public funds to help finance his ambitious infrastructure plans. On Wednesday, anti-graft agents arrested Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, after the public prosecutor ordered a probe into the alleged mismanagement of county government funds.

The National Environment Management Authority used an excavator to bring down the Ukay Centre early on Friday. Kenyatta has ordered the destruction of all buildings built illegally on river banks.

“We must discourage corruption and encourage county governments to demolish properties on riparian land,” he said in a statement. “We shall go after all those who issued the illegal permits, be they county or national government officials.”

Coffee, Gas

The building brought down Friday housed one of the remaining supermarkets owned by Nakumatt, the debt-laden retailer that’s under administration and has been forced to close more than two-thirds of its stores. The Ukay Centre is on the same street as the Westgate Shopping Centre -- a mall that previously housed Nakumatt’s flagship store before it was attacked by Islamist militants in 2013.

On Monday, NEMA demolished an Abraaj Group Ltd.-owned coffee-chain outlet and a Vivo Energy Plc gas station in central Nairobi that it said were too close to a river. Two days later, bulldozers brought down another shopping mall in southern Nairobi.

Kenya’s public prosecutor said his office would investigate government officials that authorized the structures.

“The proprietors of the said buildings and/or structures have maintained that requisite approvals before the commencement of the construction of the said buildings were granted by the relevant government agencies,” Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said in a statement on Twitter.

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