Kenya: Drug, Alcohol Abuse Fuel Illegal Scrap Metals Trade in Murang'a

A rising demand for steel, copper and other metals has led to a flourishing but unregulated trade in scrap metal in Murang'a County.

This demand is fed by small-scale dealers, who are scouring the county for anything metallic, with the infrastructure and transport sector being hard hit.

As a result, road barriers, bridge rails, metal reflectors on road surfaces and motorcycles are being vandalised in a wave of theft and destruction.

Last week, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) complained of rampant theft of cables, street lights, guard rails and road signs which it blamed on "unscrupulous and barbaric scrap metal dealers who not only endangers the lives of road users but also renders the maintenance of roads expensive."

On average, an ordinary brand new motorcycle costs Sh100 000 but in the hands of scrap metal dealers, it is weighed and posts 120 kilograms that cost Sh20 for each.

Recently, police in Maragua acting on a tip-off raided a scrap metal warehouse in Boarder estate and arrested one suspect.

The officers led by Chief Inspector Cleophas Juma pounced on the man, a church bishop, and two motorcycles recovered.

"When criminals steal the motorcycles--in some instances murdering the owners--as they seek to dispose of them before they are tracked and arrested, they opt to sell them off as scrap metal," Mr Juma told Nation.

The dealers later sell spare parts from the motorcycles, earning between Sh40,000 and Sh80,000.

Dealers in this trade target everything that has metallic value including barbed wire, cooking pots, gas cylinders, spoons and jikos.

Several hardware shops have been broken into and metallic stocks stolen only to end up sold to scrap the dealers.

"These dealers have disposal avenues for stolen valuables. Young people seeking to finance their drug and alcohol abuse lifestyle steal or vandalise everything metallic," Mr Juma said.

Murang'a South police boss Anthony Keter said his officers are on the trail of a suspect who has since gone under.

He said about 50 people have reported theft of various household items and which were among the recovered in the go-down.

Central Region Commissioner Wilfred Nyagwanga urged area security teams to dismantle the cartels.

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