Mombasa, Kenya: Nyali MP Hezron Awiti has admitted to owning the premises housing the alleged killer factory at Owino Uhuru area in Changamwe, Mombasa.
But the MP blamed Government agencies for failing to enforce safety standards at the factory accused of emitting dangerous lead effluent affecting an estimated 5,000 residents of Owino Uhuru and Bangladeshi slums.
Yesterday, Awiti also admitted to owing a half-acre piece of land covering Owino Uhuru slums which he donated to local squatters. He further said he leased out his premise to Kenya Metal Refinery (EPZ) which put up a smelting firm.
He said the lease was for five years, starting from 2007, adding that he is currently battling the firm in court over unpaid rent.
At a press conference at his Mamba Village Restaurant, Awiti said he let the premises on April 1, 2007 to Kenya Metal Refinery for five years, but was at pains to explain whether he knew the factory was discharging lead residues to residents.
“I’m being vilified as a killer without a chance to respond to those allegations. On the contrary, I only own the premises that accommodate the said company on the basis of lease agreement,” he said.
Pressure on the MP mounted after the Senate Committee on Health recommended he be investigated over the controversial lead factory.
“The committee considers the allegations (against Awiti) as serious indictment to the honour of Parliament which warrants further investigations,” it states in a report.
Senators also recommended that a health impact assessment of residents of Owino Ouru, that is now a subject of an expose by KTN, be conducted.
Yesterday, National Environment Management Authority (Nema) attempted to exonerate itself in a paid advertisement in newspapers, saying it had already started the process of dismantling and decontaminating the facility.
Nema said after the Senate visited the firm last year, a team was constituted comprising of Kenya Medical and Research Institute, Jomo Kenya University of Agriculture and Technology, Moi University, Centre for Disease Control being co-ordinated by the director of Medical Service to probe the matter.
Yesterday, Awiti said he had given investigators ‘unlimited access’ to his facilities to carry out the probe, but claimed the expose by KTN’s Jicho Pevu and Inside Story was driven by local politics and that “I’m not even sure the kids shown on television were from the area.”
“I have instructed my lawyers to pursue all legal avenues available to ensure I get the redress that I am entitled to in regard to the serious allegations in the said documentary,” he said.
Awiti, who was accompanied by Kaya elders and three county assembly members, said he will visit the affected families and co-operate during the probe.
“As a landlord I was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, neither did I have the expertise to determine, at the earliest stage possible, that sinister activities, with highly dangerous outcome were going on in the premise,” he added.
—Report by Roselyne Obala, Moses Njagi and Benard Sanga