Owino Uhuru dwellers suffer blow in pursuit of Sh1.3bn poison pay


Attorney General Kihara Kariuki. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Owino Uhuru slum dwellers in Mombasa who were severely affected by poisoning from a metal refinery will have to wait longer for the Sh1.3 billion compensation awarded by the court as State moves to overturn the pay.

The poisonous emissions from the smelting factory left victims with irreversible health conditions while some lost their lives.

However, the beneficiaries of the pay have more reasons to worry as Attorney General has opposed the award.

Through a notice of appeal, the AG has indicated that it was aggrieved with the award and will be seeking to have it overruled by the Court of Appeal.

“Take notice that the AG being dissatisfied with the whole decision of the Environment and Land Court, intends to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the same,” says the notice.

The decision to appeal comes as a setback to the affected families who have been waiting patiently for compensation after losing their loved ones and suffering severely due to exposure to the poisonous substance.

The Court of Appeal will be expected to re-look at the issues that the environment and land court found to have been done incorrectly, thus exposing the residents to the adverse effects of lead poisoning.

According to Environment and Land Court Judge Ann Omollo, the State is supposed to shoulder 70 percent of the total award after a finding that its agencies failed to discharge their duties as required by law.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema), who was determined to have had a 40 percent culpability, was for instance found to have failed terribly in discharging its mandate thereby exposing the affected residents to the effects of the poison from the factory.

Nema was largely blamed for assisting the factory to breach the law instead of holding it to account by making procedural blunders that eventually resulted into a disaster, which will cost the government millions of shillings to rectify.

Documents relied on in the case indicate that everything went wrong from the initial stages of the approval of the project as no measures were taken to ensure its activities would not have devastating effects on the environment and the community within its areas of operations.

Instead of showing that they did due diligence, the government agencies involved in the matter blamed the victims for continuing to live in an area that was zoned as industrial and also for failing to move out after learning of the pollution

The lead smelting factory, Metal Refineries (EPZ) Ltd was directed to pay 25 percent of the money for being the direct source of the poison while Penguin Paper and Book Company will meet five percent for leasing out its land to the factory.