Enziu Bridge

The stalled Enziu bridge in Mwingi central constituency.

| Kitavi Mutua | Nation Media Group

City lawyer Eric Mutua to sue Kerra over Kitui’s Enziu bridge where 32 died

The contractor who built the collapsed Enziu bridge in Kitui County and the government engineers who supervised the works may soon find themselves in court over the deaths of 32 people in a bus crash.

The Enziu community has demanded that the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra) director-general make public details of the contract for the bridge.

They want the contractor and Kerra engineers held to account for negligence that led to deaths of their loved ones. They argue that the work was shoddy and the agency failed to provide adequate supervision.

In a tough December 8 letter, residents want Kerra to disclose how the bridge contract was procured and the cost of the project.

Through Nairobi lawyer Eric Mutua, the community wants the identity of the construction company revealed, including its directors.

“Pursuant to Article 35 of the Constitution, and Section 4 of the Access to Information Act of 2016, we hereby request all the information in respect to the construction of the bridge at Enziu River,” said Mr Mutua’s letter, which the Nation has seen.

The community wants the information and documents within seven days. The demand letter was copied to Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu.

The bridge, on the Nguni-Nuu road, was built in 2015 and was supervised by Kerra engineers in Kitui County.

Large sections of the bridge have collapsed, making it risky for vehicles to cross over, especially when the river is flooded after heavy rains.

Mr Mutua, a former chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, said his law firm will pursue pro bono public litigation on behalf of the community, seeking compensation from the government for the bereaved families for negligence.

The lawyer also wrote another letter to police commanders in Mwingi, asking them to provide details on all previous deaths from drowning at the bridge reported at the Mwingi and Nguni police stations.

The legal action comes a day after the government announced it had secured Sh500 million to build a new bridge, whose work is expected to start in January.

Infrastructure Principal Secretary Paul Maringa on Tuesday told MPs that the ministry will in the meantime repair the damaged bridge, which will be used as the new one is built.

The ill-fated school bus was taking the Mwingi Catholic Church choir and other guests to a wedding in Nuu, Kitui County, on Saturday when it was swept away by raging waters of the Enziu River.

Prof Mainga told the National Assembly’s Roads and Transport Committee that the ministry has inadequate funds for bridge construction across the country.

“It is true this bridge has been a problem but budgeting has been an issue to us, but I can confirm that the notification for the new contract has gone out and we will sign a contract in the next three weeks,” he said.

“We will then give the contractor two weeks to mobilise resources before he gets to the site to start the work in January.”

The work will take two years, he said, but it will be fast-tracked because of the coming long rains.

He said signposts will also be erected and waiting areas set up near the river where travellers can rest as the waters subside during floods. Prof Mainga urged MPs to set aside a budget for building bridges.

“The Kenya National Highways Authority has no budget for that purpose. We have to mobilise funds in order to build bridges,” he said.