Cofek open letter to H.E Uhuru Kenyatta over #PlagueForProfit lead poisoning

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Your Excellency, Greetings from the Cofek fraternity hoping all is well with you.

Before we delve in the subject matter, allow us to share our sympathies and concerns in the manner your officers bungled your recent US trip. As a symbol of national unity, your security particularly and the Presidency, must not be handled casually again. We hope that those found culpable shall not walk free. They should be held fully accountable.

As one of the key pillars of the Vision-2030, the future of Kenya’s environment hangs in the balance. The complete disregard for management of sustainability favouring short-term economic interests over long-term environmental interests is a time bomb for Kenya. Indeed the dire effects of climate change are already with us. We must act swift and strategically.

Kenya has a poorly-run, grossly under-funded and most severe threat to our environment in the name of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). The well-intentioned Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports no longer mean anything. They are dished out casually and without due regard for the public good on environment. Abuse of our wetlands, noise, soil, water and air pollutions are the norm rather than an exception.

With the ill-fated NEMA running for over 2 years without a board of directors the governance at the institution has become worse and unbearable. The leadership under its’ Chairman Mr Maluki Mwendwa and Director General Prof Geoffrey Wahungu is perhaps the most unfortunate development that ever happened to this key institution.

Your Excellency,

You may have by now watched or been briefed about KTN’s #PlagueForProfit report featuring the agony of Owino-Uhuru village residents in Mombasa informal settlements. The resultant slow but painful killings, particularly for the poor and innocent children, is a revelation that NEMA has licensed foreign heartless profiteers to discharge toxic radioactive sludge, thereby compromising the health and lives of Kenyans.

The NEMA officers who approved the likes of Metal Refinery EPZ Limited cannot be any different from other violent and armed criminals, killing others for their selfish and narrow interests. They are selfish, brutal and no better than murderers. They are unfit to serve the public in line with Articles 10 and 232 of our Constitution.

Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more of it than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust, among other sources.

A lot of studies confirming lead poisoning have been conducted at the same Owino-Uhuru slums. From 2007 to date, 8 years later, lead discharge has left a trail of pain and death.

While we are aware that the National Assembly is about to introduce the Environment Management and Coordination (Amendment) Bill for the third reading, we can confirm the crisis at NEMA will have no panacea in new legislation. It is simple and square – address high level corruption and disregard for public good. After all, Article 69 and 70 of the Constitution are as clear as Section 3 of the Environment Management & Coordination Act (EMCA) on entitlement to clean and healthy environment for all Kenyans.

Your Excellency,

NEMA has been aiding destruction of our environment. It has remained an active bystander on matters it is supposed to champion. The NEMA we have today is reduced to a paper tiger where officers, with the knowledge and blessings of the Chairman and Director General, take bribes in exchange for EIA licenses. As constituted and operates today, NEMA is an expensive liability for the public to continue financing it with any valuable returns. It is a blatant disgrace to your administration.

We are particularly not amused that the DG Prof Wahungu has remained mute in tandem with the institution’s inefficiency. He only comes out to defend himself from corruption allegations and then rolls back into his cocoon.

We are further saddened that long after the Public Complaints Committee (PCC) resolved to have the Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd closed down, it continued to operate illegally especially at night.

It is interesting that NEMA never ever received a full EIA from Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd.

Your Excellency,

We are sorry for some detail but the officer who arrested the same company employees as they discharged two lorry-loads of the fatal lead-filled sludge in Mwakirunge (one Benson Wemali) has since been exposed to punitive 3 transfers to Nyeri, Kilifi and then Bomet (in a year) – where he pleaded not to report owing to his sick spouse and education. Prof Wahungu could hear none of that. He fired him. The man, our sources say, is now struggling in Court to have his job back.

Never mind that it is the same Benson Wemali who in July 2013 led an operation which successfully nabbed a 20-tonnes container full of plastic and other garbage shipped into the Kibarani freight station from the UK. The gentleman, in our humble view, is a good candidate for the Head of State Commendation (HSC) honours.

NEMA has been running for over 2 years without a substantive Director for Compliance and Enforcement after Prof Wahungu and Mr Mwendwa conspired to sack Mr Benjamin Langwen. He has since sued the agency. NEMA has been blocked from filling up the position until the Court case is heard and determined. This is a grey area for such an institution to lack such a critical officer in substantive appointment.

The Acting Director for Compliance and Enforcement Mr Zephania Ouma is at the very least openly and without shame lying (on the KTN clip) to the public when he feigns ignorance over toxicity levels at the offending metal refinery plant.

According to information in our possession, he and an officer in charge of water quality, one Mr Mwai have visited the plant severally especially after the Owino-Uhuru residents held demonstrations. He was an officer in charge of EIA’s when the plant started operations. All their reports have been forwarded to DG Prof Wahungu. Never mind, there has been no action.

Your Excellency,

In conclusion, Cofek and I wish to request as follows;

(a)    THAT you immediately direct that NEMA Chairman Mr Maluki Mwendwa, Director General Prof Geoffrey Wahungu and Acting Director of  Compliance and Enforcement Mr Zephaniah Ouma are relieved of their duties with immediate effect

(b)   THAT an independent inquiry be undertaken on how NEMA recklessly and without regard for public good approved the offending plant; Why NEMA ignored the Public Complaints Committee ruling to close down the company in 2008; The health implications and remedies for afflicted and affected Owino-Uhuru residents; Their compensation and prosecution of all those involved in the unfortunate licensing and supervision of the Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd operations.

(c)    THAT the NEMA Board of directors be reconstituted urgently and with regard to high sense of professionalism and known environmental practitioners. Theoretical experts must be shunned. They have been a bad experiment. 

(d)   THAT FY2015/16 budget for NEMA be substantively enhanced with a focus on comprehensive reforms at the institution including public education.

(e)    THAT the National Assembly fast-tracks passage of the Environmental Management and Coordination (Amendment) Bill with emphasis on making the NEMA DG an appointee of and accountable to the NEMA Board of Directors

(f)    THAT Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission as well as EMU investigation reports be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further review and action

(g) THAT Nyali MP Hezron Awiti Bollo be investigated on his role over the killer Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd

We look forward to your early and favourable reponse. We appreciate your indulgence to read our long petition. Thank you. God bless you, God bless Kenya.


Stephen Mutoro, Secretary General

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