The National Land Commission (NLC) is once again on the spot after it emerged that it has been allocating thousands of acres of land without consulting either the Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu or the counties lands offices as required by law. Allotment letters seen by The People indicate that the commission has been on a land allocation spree, dishing out land especially at the Coast without the knowledge of the Lands ministry under which it falls.
The matter could be dragged before the Parliamentary Lands Committee where the Commission would be hard-pressed to explain why it allocated forest land and huge beach plots without involving respective counties. Such allocations have caused friction between the Lands Cabinet Secretary and the commission chairman, Mohammed Swazuri, over jurisdiction of such authority. Ngilu had protested that the commission was overstepping its mandate to allocate land, a function which should be shared with her ministry.
In our possession are letters of allocation of huge chunks of 4,942 acres of land to Lamu Estate Agency and a similar acreage to Contractors Limited. The land parcels are huge beach plots on the Indian Ocean. All the letters have been approved by a one M Osondo for the commission as certified copies of the original ones done in July, 1998. The surveying has been done by Stephen Ambani who is a licensed surveyor, who has done all the work in the land parcels allocated by the commission since January, this year.
The commission has also allocated 100 acres of land off Dagoretti Forest to a company based in Kiambu. The land,LR No 225618 was been allocated to Mbukoe Investments after the allotees paid all the fee amounting to Sh2,554,700 as advised by the commission. The commission, in a note to the company, approved the allocation on January 14, this year and wrote to the cashier in-charge at the Lands office, to “Kindly verify and accept payment as appropriate.” Most of the allocations have been done in Lamu and the coastal region, with documents in our possession showing allocation of thousands of acres to people in Lamu County who bear the same address.
Last year, while on a tour of Lamu, President Uhuru Kenyatta revoked the allocation of over a million acres of land done by the previous government. Lamu is a key part of the county with the coming of the Lapset project that involves the construction of a port and railway infrastructure serving Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia. During the presidential visit, Deputy President William Ruto said: “It is not possible to have less than 100 people allocated one million acres while the residents were each given titles of an acre or slightly more…this is something that should be condemned and rectified.”
Some of those allocated in Lamu and sharing one address include, Ali Mohammed and others (338.5 acres), Omar Mohammed Bwanamkuu (222.3 acres) Abdurahman Issa Twahir all using address PO Box 74 Lamu. Others are Khalid Mohammed Ali (106 acres), Rabia Ahmed and Shee Omar (98 acres), Mohamed Abdi, Benson Nyachoro and Adan Ali (91 acres). Others are Hussein Bakari, Abubakar and others (96 acres), Bakari Khamisi (96 acres), Msellem Salim (96.3 acres), Said Omar (81 acres), Benard Koskei (98.8 acres), Grace Manwa, Omar Abdulla (98 acres), Jaffar Shee and Omar Bakari (98.8 acres) and many others, all under post box 74 Lamu. Survey works have been done in all the parcels by Stephen Ambani.
Such allocations earlier prompted Ngilu to order the Director of Surveys to stop further issuance of land registration maps to the commission and directed the Cartography department to work under her. It has emerged that the row in Lands executive drew in both President Uhuru and Ruto whose offices are working on a raft of amendments to the Land Registration Act. According to the Vice Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Delegated Legislation, Kirinyaga Central MP Joseph Gitari, the amendments seek to address the lacuna created after the exit of former Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea.
“The amendments will address the mandate of the NLC and those of the Cabinet Secretary. We will, however, address the constitutionality of the amendments to avoid opening yet another crisis that could land in the courts,” Gitari explained. The Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC) wants the NLC barred from signing title deeds. The CIC is now pushing for all vital land document to be signed by the Executive as stipulated in the Constitution. Ministry officials are reportedly looking for crucial documents on Kenya’s international boundary maps which were missing and fears have been allayed that they could be used to hive plots for allocation. Other operations which have stalled include land transfers, leases and the signing of title deeds at the ministry.