Nairobi County Government is set to cancel licences for the Sh3 billion scrap metal businesses to curb vandalism of public utilities.
Governor Evans Kidero said on Tuesday that scrap metal dealing had accelerated theft of guard rails and drainage covers on roads as well as electricity power lines, increasing accidents and disrupting economic activity.
An existing ban on dealing in illegal scrap metal and stiff court fines and possible jail terms have not stopped vandalism of public utilities, which is fuelled by local metal fabricators and steel and iron mills.
“We are having problems with power disruptions daily. We have seen a number of accidents occur because metal railings have been vandalised and sold to scrap metal dealers,” said Dr Kidero.
Rail guards and road signs have been vandalised on main roads around the country, including on sections of the newly constructed Thika superhighway and Mombasa Road. The vandals have also targeted telecommunications copper wire cables and other equipment, bridges, manhole covers, water pipes and power transformers.
In 2009, the then Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta (now President) banned the export of scrap aluminium, steel, copper wires and cables following a petition by Kenya Power and Telkom Kenya.
This was later followed by a ban by East African Community (EAC) partner states on exporting scrap metals in the region. But as export data shows, the move did not stop the exports. Available data shows that scrap metal exports fetched Sh2.8 billion last year, nearly tripling the Sh1 billion of 2011.
The amount of scrap metal exported was also more than double at 517,068 tonnes in 2012, showing that prices rose last year compared to the previous year.
Dr Kidero was speaking in Nairobi at a workshop called by the World Bank and the Nairobi County Government to discuss violence and urban safety.
Dr Kidero said the reason for the high crime rates in the city was to do with the fact that 70 per cent of the youth are unemployed. The situation is made worse by the fact that over 60 per cent of Nairobians live in informal settlements, and some abuse drugs.
“With so many young people out of work and all these informal settlements, crime is prevalent. We have too many street families. Drug abuse is prevalent. These are things we need to change,” said Dr Kidero.
He said that 931 street families had been arrested over the past few months, adding that the move had not eliminated crime from the city.
“We need to look at opportunities for students to get internships when they are out of college. We know that 70 per cent out of the one million people coming out of institutions of learning and looking for work end up in Nairobi,” said Dr Kidero.