Three people linked to Embakasi explosion accident released on Sh 200,000 bond

Nairobi’s Milimani Courts  on Thursday rejected an application by detectives to detain the owner of the land where a gas explosion occurred in Nairobi in February, killing 17 people and wounding more than 350.

Milimani Senior Principal Magistrate Gilbert Shikwe released suspected land owner Austin Lilechi and two others – electrician Oliver Mumo Munuve and Josephat Manyolo, the driver of the ill-fated truck – on Sh500,000 bond or Sh200,000 each.

Shikwe directed the three to present themselves to investigators at the Nairobi Area headquarters of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) whenever required.

The DCI filed the application through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), seeking to detain the suspects for 14 days for further investigations.

Lilechi is the landlord of Derick Kimathi, the owner of Maxxis Energy Kenya Limited, which is accused of illegally operating the gas plant in the densely populated Mradi area of Embakasi East.

Police inspector Isaac Kariuki, of Nairobi Area DCI headquarters, filed an affidavit at the court on Tuesday to support his application for the orders.

Kariuki stated that Munuve, the electrician was assisting with equipment related to gas refilling while Manyolo was the driver of the LPG tanker that exploded.

“The third respondent (Lilechi) is the suspected landlord who facilitated the activities at the scene by conspiring with our main suspect (Kimathi) and fraudulently renting the land to him,” the affidavit reads. “He is therefore holding information that is crucial to the ongoing inquiry.”

Manyolo was employed by Abraham Mwangi Nguyo, who was earlier released on bond after being held for 14 days.

According to the DCI, Manyolo was in charge of the truck, registration KCX 375Z/ZD 9589, that was loaded with LPG gas cylinders from Mombasa. The DCI wants him to accompany detectives to that county to identify the source of the gas.

Kariuki said the three had gone into hiding after the tragedy happened.

The accused opposed his application through their lawyers, arguing that the probe does not require their incarceration as the DCI doesn’t need them to get the evidence.

The details include the title deed for Lilechi’s land, which is now cordoned off as a scene of crime and the origin of the gas believed to have been brought from Uganda and Tanzania.

The DCI is investigating multiple offences including murder contrary to section 203 as read with section 204 of the Penal Code, and conspiracy to commit a felony in contravention of section 317 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

Others are the negligent causing of harm against section 244 of the CPC, and abuse of office contrary to section 46 as read with section 48 (1) of the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003, where government officers are under investigation for omissions that led to the unlawful licensing of the gas plant.

Kariuki said that although the scene has been secured, the gas released in the February 1, 2024 tragedy remains.