KENYA – The government is now at liberty to import 125,000 metric tonnes of cheap edible oil after the High Court lifted the orders that suspended the importation, Citizen Digital has reported.
Justice John Chigiti ruled that the suit filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) challenging the importation and distribution of duty-free edible oils was premature and premised on illegally acquired confidential government documents.
“I am satisfied that the case is premature because a court that admits and determines a dispute based on illegally obtained evidence is a court that acts without jurisdiction. The court lacks jurisdiction on that premise and strikes out the suit,” ruled Chigiti.
The government approved the decision in November last year to stabilize cooking oil prices after a prolonged drought that led to a shortage of household supplies and higher food prices.
The import plan, however, caused disquiet among manufacturers and food processors who argued that the imports would kill the local industry as it could not compete with cheap goods from abroad.
What followed, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) moved to court to challenge the decision by the government to import duty-free edible oils, saying that constitutional procedures were not followed.
The judge, however, said the letter dated 20th January 2023 to the Commissioner for Customs & Border Control and Departmental Circular No. 7 of 14th February 2023, which were used by LSK in the case were illegally obtained and expunged from the record.
The judge observed that a court that admits and determines a dispute before it based on illegally obtained evidence is a court that acts without jurisdiction.
” This court finds that it lacks jurisdiction to determine a suit on the basis of illegally acquired documents,” ruled Judge Chigiti.
Earlier, the state had also disregarded the call to suspend importation, arguing that orders issued by the court against importation of the edible oils are injurious to citizens whom the government wishes to cushion against the harsh economic environment caused by the ongoing drought in the country.
This was also unwelcomed by edible oil manufacturers, who claimed that over 100,000 Kenyan employees in the edible oils sector risked losing their jobs on the backdrop of duty-free imports.
The state further argued that the importation was not limited to cooking oil, but also included rice, wheat, and beans to cushion the cost of living.