Why Kenya won't lift scrap metal trade ban

Scrap metal site at Eldo Scrap centre in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The government will not lift the ban on trade in scrap metal until there are regulations in place to guide the business.

There is also a need for fresh vetting of all industry players.

The industry has remained in limbo since January 20 when President Uhuru Kenyatta placed a moratorium on the scrap metal trade, which he said was aimed at stemming the vandalism of infrastructure.

His statement came following the collapse of a number of electricity transmission towers, including two in Nairobi’s Embakasi area.

The collapse plunged the city into a lengthy power outage that agencies attributed to the vandalism.

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i yesterday said the lifting of the moratorium was pegged on regulations as well as fresh vetting of scrap metal dealers.

“No amount of pressure will make us abandon the resolve. We are not building infrastructure for scrap metal vandals. We’d rather the scrap business died but we managed to protect critical infrastructure,” he said.

CS Matiang’i added that a special multi-agency unit had been set up to protect power lines and other critical installations.

Under deterrence measures announced in January, vandals will be treated as economic saboteurs and charged under the counter-terrorism laws.

Dr Matiang’i chaired a briefing on the regulations derived from the Trade ministry and stakeholders’ recommendations on controlling the sector.

The proposed regulations recommend that all scrap metal dealers seek licences from the Scrap Metal Council as well as special vetting of copper dealers.

The regulations also say only government-owned Numerical Machining Complex will be allowed to buy scrap metal from critical infrastructure such as roads and railways.

The new regulations are being fine-tuned by the Office of the Attorney General.

AG Kihara Kariuki said he will advise the President against withdrawing the moratorium until the majority of the dealers comply with the regulations.

Trade CS Betty Maina said only 20 scrap metal dealers are officially licensed in the country.

Another 91 dealers have their applications pending in an industry with more than 4,000 players.

This means more than 3,900 operators are essentially operating illegally.

Energy PS Gordon Kihalangwa said recent measures put in place to protect power lines had reduced vandalism on transformers from an average of between 10 to 15 transformers every week to about seven per week.

In the proposed regulations, licensed dealers, millers and smelters will pay Sh250,000 in annual fees while the amount for agents and jua kali collectors will be Sh150,000 and Sh50,000 respectively. Players have termed the proposed fees punitive.


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