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How scrap metal business fuels vandalism on Outer Ring road

Section of Outer Ring Road vandalised. [Dennish Ochieng, Standard]

A wave of vandalism has hit the multi-billion Outer Ring Road in Nairobi as demand for scrap metals goes up.

Vandals damaging the new road are targeting the fittings including guard rails, barrier grills and street light posts hence compromising the safety of passengers, pedestrians and thousands of motorists plying the road every day. Being part of the Vision 2030 flagship projects, the Sh8.5 billion constructed under Kenya Urban Roads Authority was built to transform the Eastland areas economically and socially but the residents are complaining over vandalism on the roads threatening their safety.

 "We are watching our country being destroyed and eventually we'll be the ones paying the price because the Government will have to repair the road for this by either increasing taxes or diverting funds from another project," said Sammy Keere, a resident of Donholm.

The five-kilometre stretch from Taj Mall to Donholm has the wanton destruction of the road infrastructure where barriers and guard rails have been removed.

“I have lived here for 11 years and I watched this road being constructed but it is very disappointing that every day I walk around here; the road is being vandalised. You find one thing missing in the morning and by evening another will have been removed” said Keere.

A tour by The Standard team revealed that most of the light posts have been brought down and those that are still erected do not have the street lamps. The dualing of the 13-kilometer road was launched by Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta in January 2015.

“I appeal to the residents to be responsible and protect the infrastructure established in the country for our own good,” said Keere.

According to him, vandalism started with destruction and theft of the street lights posts followed by the guard rails and now vandals are going for the slabs covering the drainage lines.

"This is happening at night because there's no light. I reported to the police, but they are reluctant to take action. Now the slabs are disappearing at a very fast rate. They are also targeting the road signs and this spells danger to road users," he added.

He argued that the financial damage of the roads will cost the already overburdened citizens, arguing that instead of KURA using road maintenance levy, they will have to use the money to redo the work from scratch. Last year National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) ranked Outer Ring Road as one of the most dangerous roads in Nairobi after it claimed 32 lives between January and September 2021 making it the deadliest road in Nairobi.

“The barriers are supposed to make pedestrians use the footbridges but the vandalism will only worsen the situation where people dangerously cross the road,” said Keere.

Charles Anunda, a resident of Donholm said lack of street lights along the road has led to an increase in criminal activities in the area.

“This damage comes down to us because gangs are now regrouping near the dark sections to mug unsuspecting passersby. A big section of the road is not lit and the people cannot walk at night. People are mugged as early as 6pm,” he said.

Anunda appealed to President William Ruto to enforce the ban on the sale of scrap metals as a mitigation measure to stop vandalism of road infrastructure in the country.

“The scrap metal dealers are the ones encouraging this vandalism because they are in high demand at the moment. This was not the situation about two months ago but in the past two weeks, the slabs are being vandalised one after the other,” said Anunda.

He noted that vandalism heightened during political campaigns.

“Casual labourers sweep the road on a regular basis and they must have seen what is going on. Where are police officers when all this is happening?” Anunda posed.

The paving slabs are being vandalised and the concrete crashed for the iron rods and the mesh to sell to scrap metal dealers.

“A kilo of metal is sold for more than Sh100 and each paving slab could have metals weighing about eight kilogrammes. It is quick money for the vandals but the effects of it are far reaching,” he added.

Nickson Odinda, a motorcycle rider and a resident of Umoja One said poverty and high cost of living have pushed the young people to vandalise the road fittings to sell as scrap metals.

“If we had security lights these activities would not be happening and we wouldn’t have people being mugged,” said Odinda.