In an aggressive week-long operation, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) intercepted a series of five lorries clandestinely exporting scrap batteries to Tanzania via the Taveta border. This escalating issue has sparked outcry within the industry, with stakeholders pressing for more stringent penalties to deter illegal activities.
Station commander Peter Kiilu, of the KRA, affirmed that while patrols along the Kenya-Tanzania boundary have been ramped up, the fight against illicit scrap metal smuggling necessitates a more unified front from security forces. He implored other bodies, including the county government, to collaborate with KRA in their battle against this rampant malfeasance.
“Unprincipled merchants are operating with brazen disregard for the law, exporting forbidden goods as if we have no legal framework in place,” Kiilu lamented.
Although the export of scrap metal is explicitly outlawed in Kenya, a number of unscrupulous traders exploit the nation’s permeable borders with East African neighbors like Uganda and Tanzania to funnel the contraband.
A simmering dispute between the police and the Scrap Metal Council has emerged regarding who should shoulder the blame for the uptick in illegal exports to Uganda and Tanzania. Law enforcement has criticized the council for neglecting to enforce the revocation of licenses for those caught exporting scrap metal, while also accusing the police of laxity in arresting perpetrators.
Peter Wafula, spokesman for the Battery Manufacturers Association, appealed to Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria to dissolve the council, alleging its ineffectiveness.
“The council has shown itself incapable of reining in this unlawful trade,” Wafula declared. “It’s time for the Cabinet Secretary to exert his authority and disband this impotent body.”
Wafula has also implored Kenyan authorities to align with Tanzanian counterparts to stymie the illicit trade of scrap batteries, fostering an environment where local businesses can flourish. He warned of the potential unemployment tsunami threatening thousands within the scrap metal industry should this lawlessness persist.
“The council should be proactive in revoking the licenses of those found guilty. Those charged in court, whose trucks were apprehended, should have already lost their licenses,” Wafula maintained.
Mamo Mamo, the director-general of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), confirmed their cooperation with security agencies to quell this mounting issue.
“Our combined efforts have yielded significant results, evidenced by the apprehension of culprits dealing in hazardous waste along our vulnerable borders,” Mamo stated.
In the wake of rampant vandalism targeting vital national assets, including power transformers, former President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a ban on the scrap metal business in January 2022. Following that, the government issued stringent regulations the next May, stipulating that licensed scrap metal dealers could only transport their cargo between 6:30 am and 6:30 pm.
In accordance with the Scrap Metal Act, those found guilty of exporting this commodity face a hefty fine of 10 million shillings or a three-year jail term.