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Four NEMA officers suspended over Embakasi gas explosion

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The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has suspended four officers it deems culpable for issuing Derdols Petroleum Limited with an Environmental Impact Assessment License without following the due process as investigations intensify over the deadly gas explosion in Embakasi, Nairobi County.

The four include Director of Environmental Compliance, Acting Deputy Director of Compliance, Senior Environmental Officer at the EIA section and Head of Environmental Impact Assessment at the EIA Section.

NEMA board chairman Emilio Mugo said in a statement that the Derdols Petroleum Limited, the firm which owns the ill-fated Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage and refilling plant under the name Maxxis Nairobi Energy was issued the licenses without due process being followed.

“After thorough assessment of the licensing procedure and processes the Board of Management has noted with great concern some serous gaps in the issuance of the license in the LPG plant in question,” said Mugo.

NEMA says it first receive the EIA Project report from Derdols Petroleum Limited under the business name Maxxis Nairobi Energy for the construction of the 10MT LPG storage and refilling plant on Jul 29, 2020.

The authority after its own review which classified the project as medium risk, it dispatched the report on April 25, 2022 to the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), Nairobi County Director of Physical Planning, Water Resources Authority, Director of Occupational Safety and Health, Nairobi County Water and Sewerage Company and Director of Urban Planning and Development to guide of license issuance.

However after a review of the license, the firm was directed to ensure clarity of land ownership where the doomed facility was located and provide evidence that it has consulted area residents about the plant which Derdols Petroleum responded to on July 28, 2022.

NEMA says after the firms submitted a comprehensive EIA report on February 1, 2023, it was issued with the EIA license a day later but on condition that it meets certain conditions before proceeding with the construction of the facility. However, the firm it appears and went on to construct and operate the facility even after EPRA rejected it construction permits of the facility on three occasions.

“Further preliminary investigation has revealed that four NEMA officers unprocedurally processed the licenses and are therefore culpable. The Board therefore directs that the implicated officers step aside immediately pending further investigation by the relevant government agencies,” added Mugo.

The LPG plant which exploded on February 1, 2023 at around 11.30pm left three people dead and at least 280 people injured.

This comes amid a directive by President William Ruto on all those involved in the licensing process of the firm to step aside.

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