1,300 CLAIMANTS

Thange oil spill victims sue KPC over compensation

They say previous payment was not commensurable to the damag

In Summary

• KPC accused of discharging vouchers through deception and coercion

• KPC, Nema and Water Resource Authority have been listed as respondents  

KPC board chairman John Ngumi during the signing off the the a loan agreement between six consortium banks to finance the construction of a 450 square kilometers Mombasa Nairobi pipeline.
KPC board chairman John Ngumi during the signing off the the a loan agreement between six consortium banks to finance the construction of a 450 square kilometers Mombasa Nairobi pipeline.
Image: Photo/Enos Teche.

Victims of the oil spill in Thange River basin in Makueni county have gone to court to seek further compensation from Kenya Pipeline Company.

In the case filed at the Environmental and Land court in Makueni the victims claim they were inadequately compensated for the damage caused by the spillage that contaminated their land and the water.

The 1,300 members of Thange community from Ngomano, Moki, Mwanza, Nzavoni, Makongeni, Kyoani and Kiauni villages in Kibwezi East want KPC to pay in full for water, livestock and crops lost following the oil spill five years ago. 

The community says the previous payment was not commensurable to the damage caused, terming it unfair.  

According to court documents seen by the Star, the victims indicate loss of income generated from the polluted land, biodiversity and nature of the entire land, recreation, marine life, aquatic weeds, trauma and psychological losses that they want assessed as general damages.

“The victims are currently undertaking fresh independent tests of the loss to their health, soil, environment, water and vegetation to determine the extent to their damage which shall be added as further pleadings once the exercise is completed,” the court documents read.

KPC, the National Environment Management Authority and Water Resource Authority have been listed as respondents. 

The victims have also accused KPC of failure to carry out effective cleansing of the underground petroleum products and lack of willingness and skill to undertake the exercise, further exposing them to danger and loss of their land.

In the court documents filed by Musembi Ndolo and Co Advocates on behalf of the victims, KPC is also accused of failing to address restoration and compensation issues raised by the Environmental Impact Assessment report with the intention to defeat justice. 

“Instead of making full reparation and compensation, the first respondent (KPC) actively sabotaged the compensation process by making partial compensation relating to crop and livestock losses," court documents read. 

 

The firm is also accused of compelling and/or using unorthodox means to obtain signatures of claimants to discharge vouchers through deception, coercion, threats and intimidation through provincial administration that the victims have received full compensation and have no further claims. 

They want the vouchers nullified by the court.

The victims also want the respondents ordered to facilitate further independent examination to determine the environmental and social impact of the spillage and KPC to meet all expenses for testing the soil, water, vegetation and medical examination of their livestock.

In June, KPC acting managing director Hudson Andambi told the National Assembly Environment committee that 1,182 claims relating to medical injuries had not been paid since the claimants have not provided medical documents indicating their health was affected by the spillage.

However, the house team observed that KPC and CIC Insurance Group Limited spent a lot of time in the verification process 'so as not to pay the claims'.

According to KPC, Sh35 million has been paid to 266 claimants and out of 4,267 claims received, 491 have been rejected on grounds they were fraudulent.  Others were removed from the list on grounds the claimants were not residents of Thange. 

Kibwezi East MP Jessica Mbalu expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of compensation and asked KPC to replace the insurer.

In the suit, Nema is accused of failing to protect the environment and ensure its restoration in compliance with the law and failing to update the victims on the progress of the restoration of the damaged environment.

WRA is accused of failing to monitor and re-asses the damages caused by the spillage into River Thange and neglecting their mandate to issue requisition for immediate restoration of the river. They are also accused of failure to enforce the cleanup of the river.

The case will be heard on October 7. 

Edited by R.Wamochie