Police officer keep guard at Mradi gas explosion site in Embakasi on February 06, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The following are key officials who bear biggest responsibility over last week's gas explosion in Nairobi.

Davis Chirchir – CS Energy and Petroleum

Kenyans rated Davis Chirchir, the Cabinet Secretary for Energy and Petroleum, as the worst performing CS last year. 

They then cited the high cost of fuel and frequent electricity outages. 

His ranking may have sunk further following last Thursday’s gas explosion at Embakasi’s Mradi area that caused deaths and saw about 300 Kenyans admitted to different city hospitals with injuries. 

The survey that was done by Trends and Insights for Africa (Tifa) on the performance of President Ruto’s government, Chirchir was rated as the least performing CS with a score of 19 percent.

In guaranteeing that the trade in petroleum products, including cooking gas, which are all highly flammable and recognised a security risk, the buck stops with the CS for Energy and Petroleum. 

The Embakasi LPG storage and refilling plant has severally come under scrutiny and flagged by security agencies as well as officials within the State Department of Petroleum and should have piqued the interest of the CS but appears not to. 

Energy and Petroleum CS Davis Chirchir. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) said on three occasions it refused to issue a licence to operate a gas storage and refilling plant on account the area was densely populated. The owners of the plant would go ahead and disregard Epra’s instructions and set up the plant that has destroyed the lives of thousands of Kenyans.

The owners are not strangers to controversy, having been convicted of operating a gas refilling plant illegally in a case that was lodged in court in 2020 and concluded last year.

Petroleum industry players last week made known their disagreement with how the case was handled, noting a fine of Sh500,000 was akin to a slap on the wrist. 

Mohamed Liban, PS Petroleum 

Principal Secretary State Department for Petroleum Mohamed Liban is the accounting officer for petroleum as is the case with any other PS. As the accounting officer, he is tasked with ensuring adequate resources to the different tasks that the State department has been mandated with.

Broadly, some of the work that his State department is required to undertake include “licensing of petroleum marketing and handling” as well as the “quality control of petroleum products”.

This means that alongside Epra, Liban is responsible for ensuring that oil marketing companies as well as firms that sell liquified petroleum gas (LPG) play by the rules. He is also responsible for ensuring the quality of petroleum products, including cooking gas, are not compromised. 

Like his boss at the Ministry, Liban has chosen silence despite the huge information gap that was evident when on Monday, the residents of Mradi in Embakasi expressed fear of another gas leak and started evacuating, even taking children out of school and disrupting their learning.  

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja

The man in charge of running Nairobi County has been the missing face since Nairobi residents died and some were injured in the blast last week. On the day of the tragedy, Sakaja sent out a letter which seemed to report of a gas fire tragedy in Utawala.

That was missing the point by a mark, since the fire tragedy had happened in Mradi near Nyayo Estate, Embakasi. It was clear that Nairobi county's bigwig was not aware of what had happened at Embakasi

Governor Johnson Sakaja visited family members who lost loved ones at the Mradi fire last. [Courtesy GPS]

oN Tuesday, the missing big man seemed to have woken up from sleep and visited Embakasi where he directed all gas plants operating near residential areas across the county to cease operations and close down.

While visiting families affected by the Embakasi tragedy, Sakaja announced that he has authorised officials in all 17 Nairobi sub-counties to shut down any illegal businesses, including unsafe gas operations located in inappropriate areas.

On Monday, Nairobi's Chief Officer for Urban Development Patrick Analo, while touring the Embakasi's Mradi area, said the county government was aware that the plant in question was a garage and not a gas plant.

Daniel Kiptoo – Director General Epra

The Energy Act 2019 authorises Epra to come down hard on anyone or any businesses that commits an offence when handling petroleum products, including LPG.

The Act created Epra, an independent regulator, and among the key functions that the Act gave to the authority include regulating “importation, refining, exportation, transportation, storage and sale of petroleum and petroleum products with the exception of crude oil”.

And aside from mandating the Epra to broadly regulate the petroleum sector, the Act gives the Epra powers to investigate crimes in the sector and at times even penalise wayward players.

The regulator may at times not even be bogged down by requirements of a warrant in searching premises as according to the Energy Act, it can “enter, inspect and search any premises where an offence is being committed or is suspected to have been committed”.

And all this rests on the shoulders of Daniel Kiptoo, the director general of Epra. And because of the power vested in him by the Act, Kenyans are asking questions as to whether he too is among the State officials who could have prevented the gas explosion in Embakasi on Thursday evening.

Epra said it had on three occasions last year turned down applications that the firm made to operate a gas storage and refilling plant.

And while it undertook surveillance activities last year as evidenced by its quarterly reports that detail malpractices within the LPG sub sector, the Embakasi plant appears. This is despite industry reports saying the plant had been raided and demolished twice — in March 2020 and January 2021. Such raids are usually a combined effort between security agencies and the sector specific regulators, in this case Epra.

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