Over 900 traders at Gikomba have sued the Nairobi County government demanding Sh20 billion in compensation over frequent fires at the market.
In a case before the High Court, the traders want the county government to pay them for direct financial loss and compensation for loss of business opportunity and re-establishment costs.
The traders have listed 15 fire incidences since 2015 saying the frequent occurrences shows that the county government has failed to take any or adequate precautions for their safety and that of the public while doing their business at Gikomba Market.
The traders says for example, cited a fire incident that occurred at Gikomba Market on June 28, 2018, in which 15 people died while hundreds sustained severe injuries.
Their lawyer Adrian Kamotho says every attempt the traders have made to rebuild their business has always been dealt further devastation by recurrent infernos.
The traders are accusing the county government of breach of duty and negation of the obligation by failing to put in place a suitable business continuity plan to sustain the business environment at Gikomba Market, affecting the performance of the overall economy.
They said the fires occur despite their remission of levies, rates, license fees among other charges collected by the government.
“The Plaintiffs are at a loss as to why the Defendant would act so negligently, in breach of contractual and legal duty,” Mr Kamotho said.
Other than compensation, the traders want the court to compel the county government to establish a fire station and requisite fire containment apparatus in Gikomba market within a period 60 days.
Gikomba market, the biggest open-air market in the country, has suffered numerous fires in recent times, which has even caught the attention of State House.
In June, fire gutted a section of the market, leading to losses amounting to millions of shillings.
Past promises by the government to rein in on the menace have not been successful, even after President Uhuru Kenyatta promised stiff action would be taken against anyone found culpable.
A probe ordered by the President in 2017 is yet to provide conclusive answers and there has been numerous fire outbreaks since then.
There have been allegations that land ownership tussles between tenants in county houses, suspected land grabbers and traders have fuelled the perennial fires.