Survivors of the 2011 fire tragedy at Sinai slums in Nairobi have claimed that the Kenya Pipeline Company had not served them with any eviction notice before the tragedy happened.
The victims who are seeking compensation from the government also told a Nairobi court that the company had not served them with a notice of ownership.
The fire tragedy killed over 100 people and left others with serious burns.
The victims said they had occupied the land for twenty years before the fire broke out and shattered their sources of livelihood besides claiming the lives of their loved ones, but had never heard it belonged to KPC.
“If they would have told us we were living next to danger we would have vacated,” Ms Rebecca Ndeta, one of the victims, said.
She added that there are people still living in Sinai “but we have not seen anyone come to tell people to move.”
The witnesses were responding to questions from lawyers who wanted to know if the squatters were aware they lived on land with heavy underground oil drainage pipes from Mombasa linking a KPC depot in their neighbourhood.
BLAMES KPC FOR FIRE TRAGEDY
Ms Ndeta said she blames KPC for the mishap as the oil which caused the fire leaked from the company’s pipes into a drainage where it was ignited.
She said she believes the portion of land where her house stood belonged to her as she was duly allocated by a state official.
A lawyer said the squatters “lived dangerously close” to the oil pipes in a vicinity where human settlement was prohibited.
However, the witnesses said they were never notified of any eminent danger and were not aware they were not supposed to erect shelters on the ground.
“For the 18 years that I lived in Sinai I never heard that the plot belonged to anybody. We knew it belonged to the government and we settled there under state sanction,” Mr Josephat Mutiso a former carpenter who lost two members of his family said.
Another witness Mr Jackson Muthoga said the method a local chief used in demarcating the plots was based on how needy one was and the size of the family he or she had.
He said he was hospitalised for two months at the Kenyatta National Hospital after the tragedy and had to undergo grafting on sections of his burnt skin.
CANNOT DO HEAVY WORK
“Now I cannot function normally; I cannot do any heavy work due to the injuries,” the witness said.
Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko led hundreds of the claimants to the Milimani Law Courts Monday to follow proceedings in the case he lodged against the government on behalf of the residents while he was the MP for Makadara Constituency.
In the case, the claimants are seeking in excess of Sh5 billion for general damages including the cost of medical bills and want the court to compel KPC and the former Nairobi County Council, now Nairobi County government to pay for negligence.
“I have been unable to resume work and my children are out of school since I can no longer fend for them.
"I used to make about Sh40,000 per month,” Mr Jackson Muthoga, another survivor told the court.