Economy

Scrap metal dealers face off with councils in licence row

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Judge’s word. There is great public interest in implementing the resolution reached by the respondent.

Scrap metal dealers are fighting to remain in business as municipalities turn down requests for renewal of licences to curb theft and vandalism of infrastructure.

The investors got a blow following a court ruling this month in favour of the Meru Municipal Council that refused to renew a dealer’s licence to reduce vandalism.

The Meru Municipality blamed the dealer for increased theft through which the council has been losing its infrastructure installations to vandals.
Mr Justice James Makau ruled in favour of the municipality in public interest.

“The matters raised by the respondent are weighty. There is great public interest in the implementation of the resolution reached by the respondent,” the judge said.

The court took notice of the fact that the theft of drains, manholes and other materials belonging to various local authorities has been on the rise, prompting local authorities to ban scrap metal trade.

Paul Kaiga, a scrap metal dealer in Meru, had filed a petition against the Meru Municipality in May 2012, demanding the renewal of a licence.
The municipality decided that the business would no longer be allowed within its jurisdiction.

This is because it suspected that the scrap metal dealers were involved in stealing manhole lids, chamber lids and other implements used in covering the drainage system.

Mr Justice Makau said the matter must override private right or interest to halt possible prejudice to the administration of justice. “There is a legitimate public expectation that the respondent’s decision should be implemented and the same has since March been implemented,” said the judge.

He said in the ruling that this is a proper case in which the rights and fundamental rights of the petitioners ought to be limited for the sake of the larger society.

The government passed laws restricting exports of scrap that had in the recent past attracted increased investments due to the promise of increased material supply.

Under the revised Act which President Kibaki signed on July 6, 2012, a conviction for vandalism now attracts a minimum fine of Sh5 million or jail term of not less than 10 years.

The Industrialisation ministry is working on a Bill that will see the formation of a council to oversee the running of the sector while putting in place measures to curtail vandalism.

Vet applicants

The council shall vet all applications for a licence, renewal requests and advise the Cabinet on actions to be taken.

The scrap metal dealers will need Sh2 million to get a dealing permit and shall also be required to keep a record of the type and sources of the metals.

Kenya Power has attributed 40 per cent of its supply interruptions to theft of transformers and accessories, which numbers were the major thrust behind the campaigns to tighten the law.