State officials protecting Solai Dam owners, Senate committee alleges

Horrified children flee to safety after the Solai dam burst on May 10, 2018. /REUTERS
Horrified children flee to safety after the Solai dam burst on May 10, 2018. /REUTERS

A Senate committee probing the Solai Dam tragedy has accused the government of covering up owners of the dam which killed 48 people.

The committee chaired by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo expressed disappointment with Nakuru county commissioner Joshua Nkanatha and his officers, whom they accused of leading the cover-up.

The commissioner, the MPs say, has been forcing locals to sign for compensation forms on behalf of Patel dam owners.

By 6pm last evening, Nkanatha had not picked calls or responded to text messages for comment.

The local clergy, the senator claim, were also part of the team going round convincing residents to sign the indemnity forms.

The compensation ranges from Sh100,000 to Sh1 million.

The Senate team says the payment was to bar the victims from taking to court the dam owners for further compensation.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina said the administrators ensured the Interior CS was not involved.

The MPs said the local administrators were present during the signing of the forms, despite the ongoing investigations into the circumstances that led to the death of 47 people.

The lawmakers want Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to suspend the Nakuru county commissioner and officers, saying they are hampering the investigations. “Any further investigation must be done in the absence of the county commissioner. The county commissioner is in cahoots with Patel and needs to be suspended,” Mutula said.

“The same people representing the state are the same dishing out money,” added Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja. Speaking yesterday when they met Interior CAS Patrick Ntutu, the legislators said the ongoing probe is already compromised.

Ntutu, who represented Matiang’i, said he was unaware of the alleged compensation scheme by the county commissioner on behalf of the Solai dam owners.

He promised to investigate the matter and take action against any government officer found to have tried to coerce the victims into signing indemnity forms in exchange of money. “The investigations is ongoing and we will know who did not do his job. People have been arrested and more will be arrested if need be,” Ntutu said. Perry Mansukh Kansangara, Jaya Vinod Kumar, the owners of Solai Dam, and seven others, were on Monday released on a Sh5 million bond each.

They spent the weekend at the Naivasha prison. The nine were charged with 48 counts of manslaughter following the May 9 incident in which the dam burst, causing raging waters and mud to wreak havoc downstream.

Investigators say killer dam was constructed by unqualified staff.

“We are beginning to doubt the sincerity of the charges. It is the same government that is prosecuting and protecting these suspects,” said Sakaja.

The Nairobi Senator disclosed the committee is considering filing a parallel case against the dam owners.

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