Court lifts suspension of firm linked to gas explosion as petitioner sues state

Embakasi gas explosion suspects at a Milimani court on February 06, 2024. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

A case has been filed before the High Court in Nairobi seeking orders to force the government and the firm that was operating the gas plant in Mradi, Embakasi to compensate the victims.

Those who were sued in the case filed on Wednesday before High Court Judge Chacha Mwita are National Environment Management Authority (Nema), Nairobi City County, Attorney General, Energy Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra), Maxxis Nairobi Energy and the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

This comes as another court temporarily lifted the ban slapped on Derdols Tech Services Limited and Derdols Petroleum Limited.

Justice John Chigiti issued the orders in a case by the two companies against Epra.

In the compensation case, the petitioner Francis Mureithi told the court that the national government, its agencies, Nairobi county and Maxxis were to blame for allowing and illegally operating a gas plant in a residential area.

He argued that the 10 persons who died and over 300 injured should be compensated as the fire could not have occurred if the law was followed.

“Many persons whose lives have been adversely impacted as a result of the said incident, an incident which the petitioner avers could have and should have been prevented, had the respondents been diligent and efficacious in discharging their constitutional and statutory mandate,” said Mureithi.

The petitioner told the court that the majority of those who were injured could not afford to pay their medical bills while those who lived near the explosion site had to vacate their houses.

He argued that the company should not have been allowed to operate in the area or issued with a license.

Mureithi said that the license must have been issued through a questionable process by Epra, Nema and the county despite the area being densely populated.

“The petitioner avers that at all material times, it was the statutory duty of the 1st 2nd and 5th respondents to exercise their respective authority lawfully and properly with a view to ensuring that such a facility should not have been allowed to operate let alone being licensed,” he argued.

Mureithi wants the court to find that the government, its agencies and the county, failed to discharge their duties.

At the same time, he wants the court to find that they violated the rights of those who were either killed or injured.

The petitioner is also seeking orders to force the government to pay damages to all the families of those who lost their loved ones as well as those who were affected; either injured or displaced.

Meanwhile, the case before Justice Chigiti added a new twist to the Embakasi gas explosion saga.

It emerged that Epra had licensed the two firms that were trading as Maxxis Nanyuki Energy for the business of filling liquefied petroleum gas, transport of LPG and transport of petroleum products.

In the cases, Derdors claimed it received communication from Epra that its licenses had been suspended.

In court, the firm alleged the cancellation was done without being given an opportunity to respond to the allegations against it.

Derrick Kimathi, in his supporting affidavit, told the court that he is the Managing Director of the two companies.

He narrated that on February 8, he received a show-cause notice from Epra. This was days after the explosion. The regulator, in the letter, claimed that it found out that the company was filling in cylinders belonging to other companies.

Kimathi responded, saying that the company had just hired new staff members who did not know the protocol.

However, he said, Epra sent another communication that it had decided to suspend the Maxxis’s licence owing to the explosion. Kimathi claimed that he was not given a hearing before the regulator took action.

“That is unlawful, callous, malicious and fraudulent for the respondent to make such a unilateral decision without notifying the ex-parte applicants. The respondents’ actions are punitive and have adverse effects on the ex-parte applicants’ business,” he said.