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Embakasi gas explosion: CS Chirchir snubs Senate committee again

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

Party politics played out during the Senate Energy Committee when Energy Cabinet Secretary Davies Chirchir failed to appear for the second time to answer questions over the Embakasi gas explosion.

On Thursday, some opposition senators accused the Committee Chairman Wahome Wamatinga of being lenient on Chirchir.

But Wamatinga said that they are out to serve Kenyans and they will not hold any discussions with CS Chirchir, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and National Environment Management Authority (Nema) Director General Mamo Boru Mamo who failed to turn up for deliberation on the tragedy that left seven people dead and over 200 injured.

Energy Principal Secretary Mohammed Liban and Energy Petroleum and Regulatory Authority (Epra) Director General Daniel Kiptoo were the only the only senior government officials who turned for the meeting where senators accused Chirchir of failing to treat the matter the with the seriousness it deserves.

Wamatinga told the committee that the CS had confirmed that he would be appearing before he got a call to attend an urgent meeting at State House, Nairobi which forced him to seek permission to be excused from honouring the summons issued to him last week.

“This meeting cannot go on since Energy Cabinet Secretary Davies Chirchir, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and Nema Director General Mamo Mamo have not turned up with only Energy Principal Secretary Mohammed Liban and Epra Director General Daniel Kiptoo present,” he said.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina said they need to move on since the families that lost their loved ones and property are suffering and they cannot continue waiting for a CS who is not willing to come to the Senate to shed light on the matter.

Ledama asked Wamatinga to declare the action to be taken against Chirchir since he has deliberately decided not to appear before the committee to serve as a lesson to others.

The Senate Minority Whip asked the committee chair to crack the whip since the law is clear that a witness who fails to honour summons should be fined Sh500,000 with an order to compel them to appear before Parliament be enforced since the matter at hand was of national importance.

“Our chairman needs to come out clearly on disciplinary measures to be taken against the Energy Cabinet Secretary who has deliberately chosen not to appear before this committee. There is no point for us to come here very early and fail to deal with the matter at hand which touches on the lives of Kenyans,” said Ledama.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said that the Energy CS, Epra and Nema bosses and Nairobi Governor were supposed to attend the meeting to address the plight of the Embakasi Gas explosion victims.

Sifuna reiterated that the law was clear that a Cabinet Secretary shall appear before a Senate Committee when summoned and not when he wishes to and that Chirchir had clearly shown disrespect to the people of Kenya by failing to appear before them without any formal response.

“The people of Nairobi are saying the promises made to the people of Embakasi have not been delivered with Chirchir supposed to tell Kenyans what he has done while Sakaja should tell us why the Sh280,000 that each of the affected families was to get has not been delivered to date,” he said.

Siaya Senator Oburu Oginga said that for the 30 years he has served as a legislator parliamentary business takes over precedence over any other engagement and it was worth noting that Chirchir had failed to appear before the committee for the second time after being officially invited.

Oburu asked Wamatinga to ensure that the CS is fined and compelled to appear before the committee saying that this was not a political matter but the lives of millions of Kenyans.

“For how long will we be postponing our meetings since the Cabinet Secretary seems to be having other important engagements than parliamentary business, the senior government officers present here had left crucial duties of serving Kenyans to appear before the Senate Energy Committee,” he said.

Embakasi East MP Babu Owino asked the committee to take the matter seriously since the people who died had not been compensated and over 500 victims are homeless while Chirchir finds it convenient to go elsewhere to attend to other issues and not come to Senate.

Owino who attended the meeting as a friend of the committee said that the CS is showing open contempt to the victims and Kenyans and disciplinary action needs to be taken against him since this was not about a political competition but the lives of millions of Kenyans at stake.

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