An alarm has been raised over increased cases of vandalism of key private and public installations by rogue scrap metal dealers at Maguguni area of Ngoliba Ward in Thika, Kiambu County.
For the last three months, theft of water pumps most of which are stripped of copper wire, tanks, gates, windows, and metallic farming tools has increased with locals blaming the crime on a booming illegal scrap metal business in the area.
Irked by the increased burglary, the locals who have been having sleepless nights on Monday night managed to arrest three suspects found having invaded homes on a mission to steal metallic items for throw-away sales at a local shop.
Agitated, the irate residents further invaded the scrap metal shop at Ngoliba shopping centre where they managed to recover their stolen home items which, once stolen, are destroyed by cutting them into pieces to conceal their identity.
The residents led by Beth Kamau whose Ksh70,000 worth water pump machine was stolen on Sunday before it was sold to the scrap metal dealers at throw-away prices told journalists that properties worth millions have so far been stolen and sold to unscrupulous scrap metal dealers who later market them elsewhere.
“My three-year-old water pump machine which I bought at Ksh70,000 was stolen and sold for some hundreds, they also stole my gate which they sold at Ksh700. How are we going to survive in this state? Our main concern is actually not the thieves but the ready market at Ngoliba shopping centre. It is time that the government closes down these scrap metal shops, otherwise, we are ready to deal with them as residents,” Kamau lamented.
On her part, Margaret Njeri another victim narrated that she was shocked to find her sufurias (cooking pots) stolen with food items by the daring criminals who invaded her home while she was asleep.
“They do not mind what they are stealing. They are now sneaking into our kitchens to steal everything and anything to make us suffer. We are perturbed that nothing much has been done to contain the thieves,” Njeri regretted.
To make the matter worse, the thieves are now said to have begun invading public infrastructure including a local bridge whose metallic items were destroyed, removed and sold to unknown people.
Brass valves, metal pipes and ladders are among other public properties stolen by the thieves who in most cases execute the crimes at night.
Ngoliba Ward Member of County Assembly (MCA) Joakim Njama narrated how the daring criminals reportedly forced a disabled child out of his wheelchair which they destroyed and sold to the scrap metal dealers.
The same suspects are also said to have clothed a goat which they stole at Maguguni village before they transported it via a motorbike to unknown markets.
“These criminals are very daring. They stole Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) metals erected at Kilimambogo, destroyed them and ferried them to the scrap metal dealers who we suspect are great partners in this crime. There is a woman whose disabled child was forced out of his wheelchair which they later sold to their usual markets,” Njama recounted.
Every time locals report the crimes to the police, the MCA said they are told the scrap metal dealers have the requisite documents to support their businesses.
“Which laws are these that facilitate the issuance of licenses to rogue people who are destroying the peace and economic state of our people? This crime must come to an end and our plea is that the national government intervenes to help us deal with the criminals once and for all,” the MCA pleaded.
Early last year, the government announced a moratorium on scrap metal trade in the country as part of government efforts to end the rising cases of vandalism of public installations.
The government cited increased vandalism of state infrastructure which was described as economic sabotage which falls under treasonable acts.
The suspension was to remain until the government put in place adequate measures to effectively police the sourcing, trade and export of scrap metal, warning that those found culpable for vandalism of state infrastructure will be dealt with firmly.