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Parliament on spot for sneaking law to protect GOK projects from litigation

By Kamau Muthoni | May 28th 2017

It will now be difficult for individuals to challenge government projects after Parliament passed a ‘curious’ law blocking courts from issuing conservatory orders against such projects.

Documents filed in court by lobbyist Okiya Omtatah show that Parliament last month passed into law a clause which invalidates all orders issued by National Environment Tribunal to stop projects being implemented by the State over environmental concerns.

The amendment to Section 129 of the Environmental Management and Co-Ordination Act 1999 was inserted in the Prevention of Torture Act 2017 as Section 29. The co-relation between the two Acts has been questioned. The environment Act gives the tribunal powers to block any project that is perceived harmful to the flora and fauna.

The anti-torture law is meant to prevent law enforcers from using excessive force and extra judicial killings. The effect of this amendment is that the new environment law would invalidate all orders previously issued by the Environment Tribunal once that law comes into force.

“The impugned amendment has far reaching implications on the public and cannot be sneaked into law,” the court papers say.

Among the projects that had been blocked by the tribunal is the Standard Gauge Railway construction at the Nairobi National Park.

Omtatah says the MPs forgot to indicate that the 2016 Prevention of Torture Act was to amend Environment Act.

“The impugned amendment, which introduces a matter totally unrelated to the objects of the Bill, since protecting the environment has absolutely nothing to do with torture, was a late addition to the Bill, and was never subjected to the committee stage where the public is notified and invited to participate,” Omtata argued.

Leader of Majority Aden Duale, according to the court papers, was the mover of the amendments on April 6 2017, a move he made to tame those who sought to delay government projects.

Okiya said: “Duale sneaked the impugned amendment into the Torture Act to achieve the collateral purpose of defeating the stop orders the National Environment Tribunal issued suspending the construction of the Nairobi-Naivasha cection (Phase 2A) of the Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park.”

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