LEAD POISONING

Lobby pushes for Sh1.3bn Owino Uhuru residents payout

Courts awarded damages to 3,000 residents who had filed a class action suit over lead poisoning.

In Summary
  • The case had been filed in 2016 by the residents seeking compensation for death, sickness and damages caused by emissions from  lead emissions.
  • The court also ordered the government to clean up Owino Uhuru slum within four months, failure to which a further Sh700m is to be paid. 
A file photo of residents of Owino Uhuru slum in Jomvu, Mombasa county, during a protest against a lead company.
A file photo of residents of Owino Uhuru slum in Jomvu, Mombasa county, during a protest against a lead company.
Image: File

A lobby group has accused the national government of failing to adhere to a High Court judgment that awarded Owino Uhuru residents in Mombasa a Sh1.3 billion compensation.

On July 16, 2020, the Environment and Lands courts in Mombasa awarded damages to 3,000 residents of Owino Uhuru slum, who had filed a class action suit over lead poisoning.

The case was filed in 2016 by the residents seeking compensation for death, sickness and damages caused by emissions from a lead smelting factory; EPZ Ltd- Metal Refinery factory.

The judgment meant that two Cabinet Secretaries for Environment and Health, the National Environment Management Authority, EPZ Ltd- Metal Refinery factory, the Export Processing Zone Authority and Penguin Paper and Book Company had 90 days to pay the award.

The court also ordered the government to clean up Owino Uhuru slum within four months, failing which a further Sh700 million was to be paid. 

The 90-day order to pay the damages elapsed on October 15, 2020 whereas the 120-day period to clean up the slum came to an end on November 9, 2020.

The court had ruled that state agencies listed as defendants in the case and the private companies were liable for health and environmental harm inflicted on the community.

This came as it was found that used car batteries emitting fumes containing lead and untreated acid water were released to the environment.

EPZA was supposed to pay Sh200 million, Nema was to pay Sh800 million, Penguin Paper and Book Company Sh1 million, the lead factory Sh3 million, according to Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action.

However, CJGEA executive director Phyllis Omido told the Star that the compensation is yet to be made, about two years later. 

This was after the state appealed against the matter in August 2020. The case is still pending in court.

Omido said they are now going to pursue individual institutions mentioned in the matter, and will start with EPZA.

“We now want to deal with the institutions and companies involved one by one and we are starting with EPZA. We have tried to engage them in communication, but they are giving us unreasonable and unrealistic answers,” Omido said.

She said the victims of Owino Uhuru are still struggling to raise funds for their medication.

“The victims still need medication. We are still losing others because of the lead poisoning, therefore, we need to find a way for the compensation to be made immediately,” she said.

On February 1, CJGEA and other activists will hold a demonstration against EPZA for failing to comply with the court decision.

“We, the environmental activists, are planning to hold a peaceful demonstration against EPZA, but we are being denied permission by the police,” she said.

On January 10, the urban subcounty police commander declined to approve the demonstration against EPZA.

“Please be informed that the procession has been declined due to security matters within the county,” read part of the letter signed by the police.

However, Omido has vowed to stay put and continue with the demonstration. She urged the Owino Uhuru residents to show up in large numbers and fight for their rights.

“There claims that I want to gain political mileage through this protest, that is not true. I am not prepared to cancel the protest because it is a noble cause to fight for the Owino Uhuru residents to get their compensation as ordered by the High Court,” she said.

 

 

-Edited by SKanyara