Rail, power lines vandals now face Sh20m penalty

Kenya Power and Lighting Company staff together with members of the public at a scene where a transformer was vandalized at Chepsigot in Keiyo. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The State wants to double the fine for vandalising electricity transmission lines, railway and road furniture to Sh20 million, in the latest push to deter the vice that costs the economy billions every year.

The proposed increase is contained in the Statute Miscellaneous Amendment Bill, 2022 currently before Parliament for debate and passage.

The government’s push for stiffer fines comes amid increasing vandalism of critical infrastructure including electricity lines, pylons and transformers, the Nairobi Expressway and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

These acts of vandalism have periodically plunged the country into national power outages, disrupted operations of the Madaraka Express while endangering the lives of Kenyans.

“This (Bill) is intended to protect critical infrastructure, for instance, transformers,” reads the Bill tabled by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya.

The Bill that will be debated before Parliament breaks for the long recess next month will change the Scrap Metal Act of 2015 as Kenya tightens the noose on vandals.

The country was in January thrown into a national blackout after towers supporting a high-voltage power line linking Nairobi to the Kiambere hydroelectric plant collapsed following vandalism at Imara Daima. This was the third national blackout in the past four years.

Last year, a Mombasa-bound Madaraka Express passenger train was forced to halt for hours after criminals removed 22 continuous gauge blocks in Makueni County.

In 2017, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) also disclosed that vandals had carted away material worth Sh1.2 billion from the SGR line in the first five months of operations.

Major highways including the eight-lane Thika Road have also been targeted by vandals for the metal parts from guard rails and footbridges.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in January banned exports and dealings in scrap metal, hitting hard traders currently operating in the sector.

“We have seen vandalism of different signboards and towers of our transmission lines. We have also seen clear cases of sabotage as was the case in Naivasha where people intentionally unbolted some of our transmission lines and masts to create chaos and havoc,” Mr Kenyatta said.

Mr Kenyatta added that the moratorium will ensure that materials are not coming from the hard-won investments that the Kenyan people have made.

The ban on the trade is yet to be lifted four months down the line with the government saying that scrap metal dealers must apply for fresh licences and join associations before being allowed to resume the trade.

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