Firm wants court to lift Uhuru scrap metal ban

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

A case seeking to unfreeze the lucrative scrap metal business has been lodged before the High Court.

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a moratorium on export, buying and selling of scrap metals to tame runaway vandalism.

Silver Steel Limited, a firm dealing in scrap metal, has challenged the temporary ban.

According to the company, dealers in metal were condemned without being given an opportunity to be heard.

The firm's director Abdul Waheed Khan argues that Uhuru's declaration amounts to unfair treatment as some of those in the industry do not deal in vandalised metal.

"The petitioner was surprised to learn about the announcement on digital media platforms and print media. The rationale behind the ban was to curb theft and vandalisation of key public installations which the president said led to economic sabotage of national infrastructure,” said Waheed.

The directive, says Waheed, has left his company staring at losses amounting to billions of shillings.

Waheed claims by the time the President issued the ban, Silver Steel had purchased 4,000 tonnes of scrap metal worth Sh100 million.

In his court papers, Waheed says the moratorium caught him unawares as his firm was planning to transport the metal waste to Blue Nile Rolling Mills Limited in Thika.

According to Silver Steel, the president has no powers of freezing or unfreezing operations of an entire business sector. The company argues the directive can only be legal if the same is gazetted.

Uhuru last month ordered suspension of scrap metal trade until a proper regulatory framework is put in place. This followed vandalism of electricity transmission infrastructure, the Standard Gauge Railway, communication towers, highway and road barriers. 

However, Silver Steel claims the government is the author of its own misfortunes, as it had remained silent on the scrap metal dealership rules formulated seven years ago.

According to the company, since the enactment of Scrap Metal Act in 2015, no rules or guidelines have been implemented.  

“The presidential announcement on moratorium on export, buying and selling of scrap metal violates the provisions of Article 10 of the Constitution as it is neither transparent nor accountable,” argues the firm's lawyer Peter Wanyama.

Asserting that his client and others will suffer massive losses if the court does not intervene, Wanyama says the decision to abruptly halt scrap metal business was too drastic as it did not factor in the prevailing circumstances of dealers in Kenya.

Silver Steel wants the court to find that Uhuru’s directive was unconstitutional. At the same time, it wants the court to lift the ban.

"The petitioners prays for a permanent injunction be issued restraining the respondents from implementing the presidential announcement on moratorium on export, buying and selling of scrap metals pronounced on January 20, 2022," Wanyama appeals.

In the suit file against AG Kihara Kariuki and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina, Silver Steel is also seeking compensation. Others sued are the Scrap Metal Council and Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai.