GOVERNMENT seemed to be starting to react on Saturday when it suspended four officers of the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) in connection with the gas explosion that caused disaster in Embakasi area, Nairobi on Thursday night.
The action was taken a few hours after President William Ruto ordered the dismissal and prosecution of officials who issued licenses for illegal gas trading in the area. Three people lost their lives and 280 others were seriously injured in the tragedy that occurred in Mradi Village in Embakasi East Constituency.
“After conducting a detailed inspection of licensing procedures, the Supervisory Board has identified several flaws in the licensing of the gas plant where the tragedy occurred. It has been confirmed that four officers issued the license illegally despite the company not complying with the necessary conditions,” Nema board chairman Emilio Mugo said in a statement.
“Therefore, the board has ordered the officials involved to leave office immediately until the investigation conducted by the relevant government agencies is completed,” he added.
According to Nema, those suspended include; The director of the environmental compliance unit, his deputy and two officers in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) unit.
The action has come a few hours after President Ruto ordered the Ministry of Energy to punish the officials involved in the licensing of the plant. Speaking on Saturday morning in Lugari constituency, Kakamega County, Dr Ruto said the move was due to corruption, immorality and greed among relevant government officials.
“In Nairobi, there was a gas explosion and people died and many others were injured. This was due to the negligence and corruption of the government officials who gave the license to the factory in the residential area,” he said when he addressed the people after launching the construction project of a new market in the business center of Chekalini.
“Therefore, I have instructed the Ministry of Energy that all the officials who issued the license after being bribed should be fired today and sent to prison for the crimes they committed,” he added.
President Ruto said there is no need for such officials to continue to hold government positions and be paid salaries from taxpayers’ money. The Authority for Managing the Energy and Fuel Industry in the Country (Epra) is the one with the legal authority to issue permits for any type of energy business in the country. The Director General of Epra is Daniel Kiptoo.
On Friday, Epra said it refused to issue a permit to the plant’s owner three times in 2023. The organization said it did not agree with the businessman’s idea to establish a cooking gas plant in a residential area.
“Applications to seek permission to establish a gas plant in this area were received by Epra on March 19, 2023, June 20, 2023 and July 31, 2023. All applications were rejected because they did not meet the necessary conditions to establish a gas storage and filling station in this area, “Epra said in a statement.