The Mombasa Appeal Court has once again postponed the delivery of the judgment in which Owino Uhuru residents were awarded Sh1.3 billion in compensation for lead poisoning in 2020.
The Appellate Court was supposed to deliver its verdict on December 2, 2022, but it was pushed back to February 17 this year, and then to March 17.
However, on Thursday evening, Deputy Registrar of the Court of Appeal Harrison Adika wrote to the residents, informing them that the judgment had been postponed until April 14.
“I have been directed to inform you the judgment on this appeal that was to be delivered on 17-03-2023 has been deferred to Friday 14 April 2023. We regret any inconvenience caused,” read part of the email from the court
On Wednesday, a group of residents and rights activists pitched tents outside the court building, demanding the judges deliver the judgment as planned.
However, the court cautioned the residents against trying to exert pressure on the court to adjudicate the matter in any way.
The Judiciary requested the lawyers of the Owino Uhuru residents to guide their clients to stop picketing or demonstrating outside the Court of Appeal in Mombasa.
Phyliss Omido, the executive director of the Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action, told the Star they will heed the request of the Court of Appeal and police not to demonstrate outside the court building.
However, on Thursday evening, Omido said, they received yet another email from the Court of Appeal Deputy Registrar’s office that the matter has been pushed to next month.
“We are really worried about what is going on at the Court of Appeal. This case was heard and concluded, the judges are now expected to uphold the High Court’s decision to award the residents the Sh1.3 billion compensation or nullify it. What is so complex about it?” Omido asked.
On Thursday, the Deputy Registrar of Court of Appeal told the residents, “I’m instructed by the Presiding Judge to convey to you that regrettably and on account of the complexity of the matter, it has taken longer than originally anticipated to finalize the same.
“It is, however, not right for any of the parties to attempt to exert pressure on the Court to adjudicate the matter in any way and we request you to guide your respective clients to desist from doing so.”
The Court of Appeal said the residents should channel any grievances they might have with the court through their advocates.
“We trust what was experienced today will not recur,” the Court of Appeal said.
On Friday, Omido asked how the matter has turned out to be complex and has been deferred four times at the tail end of delivering a judgment.
“Apparently, this matter has been deferred four times now. This has never been witnessed in this country and one wonders what is happening,” Omido said.
The residents had in 2016 filed a class action suit against the ministries of Environment and Health, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA), Penguin Paper and Book Company and the lead smelting factory, Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd, seeking Sh2 billion damages.
The Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd used to extract lead from used car batteries, and in the process emitted fumes containing lead and released untreated acidic water to the environment.
The company was closed in 2014 after at least five deaths were reported. So far, more than 50 deaths allegedly related to lead poisoning have been reported within the Owino Uhuru slum.
In July 2020, Environment and Lands Court Judge Ann Omolo ordered the residents to be awarded Sh1.3 billion for deaths, sickness, and damages caused by emissions from the lead-smelting factory.
The court ruled that Nema bore the greatest responsibility for damages at 40 percent, the Mental Refinery EPZ bore 25 percent of the damages and the two ministries were each found 10 percent liable.