Inside probe on tragic houses in Ruiru, Ruaka and Kasarani

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022 06:00 | By
Key causes of buildings collapse are impunity, greed
Rescuers attend the scene of a building collapse in Ruaka, on the outskirts of the capital Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. PHOTO/AFP

The owner of a building that collapsed in Ruiru, Kiambu county, was yesterday arraigned in court but did not face formal charges.

Ruiru Principal Magistrate JA Agonda allowed a miscellaneous application by the State to have Stephen Ngaruiya Gitau, the owner of the building, to be remanded for seven days for police to complete investigations.

Making the application, Corporal David Mwangi said police needed time to carry out thorough investigations into the incident, which occurred less than 12 hours after over 200 tenants were evacuated.

He said the owner of the building was arrested on Monday evening and is required to give police information on the building. The case will be mentioned on November 30th, this year.

Cordoned off

Yesterday, clearing up of the debris using an excavator continued for the second day at the premises, which has been cordoned off by police

Elsewhere, fresh details show that a building that collapsed in Kasarani had questionable approvals.

Investigations show it had no legitimate approvals and that senior officials at City Hall could have sanctioned its construction.

Detectives attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) are undertaking forensic investigations on technical building approval documents and minutes of an approval meeting believed to be forgeries.

Specifically, investigators have questioned the authenticity of the building approval plan dated September 27, 2021 bearing an authorisation stamp of the defunct Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) City Planning Department.

“We want to establish who at City Hall approved the building plans, minutes of the technical meeting allegedly held on September 27, 2021, at the office of the Director of Urban Planning and the NMS Development Application Building Plan Approval,” a senior officer said.

Additionally, sources at City Hall indicate that an inspection can only be conducted on an already approved construction, but supervision of a structure without approval “amounts to superintending an illegal development”.

The condemned building killed three people and left six others badly injured. The probe has now been widened to senior officials at Land, Urban Planning and Development departments at City Hall.

Investigators believe there were deliberate acts of commission and omission through collusion of senior officers at City Hall and their juniors at the Sub County level in facilitating construction. Also, there were notices barring the construction. 

However, the whereabouts of the developer, identified as Joel Kamau Kibe, remains unknown.

Those likely to be questioned include Nairobi County Chief Officer Lands, who doubles as the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Built Environment, and Urban Planning member Stephen Gathuita Mwangi ( S.G Mwangi).

Others include the director of Development Control, Patrick Analo, and Lillian Kieni, who was deployed from the State Department for Housing and Urban Development to the post of Director of Roads and Transport as Chief Officer, , as well as John Osike, an urban planning officer who was previously based at Kasarani but has since been transferred to Embakasi East sub-county.

Directly responsible

Last week, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja interdicted three junior officers and told them to show cause within 10 days, saying they are directly responsible for the incident.

According to the National Construction Authority (NCA) Executive Director, Maurice Akech, the project was suspended that fateful morning, with Kibe’s site foreman Sylvester Oluoch arrested and detained at Kasarani Police Station.

On its part, the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK) has urged developers to use certified and professional engineers. Speaking yesterday during the 29th IEK convention at Diani, Kwale county, Ohaga said many Kenyans do not use professional engineers when constructing buildings, instead opting for cheap contractors whose do shoddy work.

“Cheap is always expensive; get a professional engineer to construct a stable and firm building, not engineers that are not certified,” he said.

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