Work on the Nairobi-Naivasha standard gauge railway and a multibillion dam in Kiambu County will have to be paused until the High Court lifts a suspension order issued on Friday.
Construction of the Sh24 billion Karimenu II Dam in Gatundu North, and a section of Phase 2A of the standard gauge railway, with a budget of Sh150 billion, will now be subject to court scrutiny mainly on land acquisition.
The National Land Commission (NLC) acquired land for the projects from last year. But in two gazette notices issued on November 1, its acting chairperson Abigael Mukolwe revoked all the awards issued, citing computation discrepancies, errors, overlapping boundaries and other issues.
NLC further asked the affected Kenyans to visit chiefs’ offices along the Nairobi-Naivasha railway project for more information, or get details from Kiriko Coffee Factory in the case of those affected by Karimenu Dam construction.
That announcement was challenged on Thursday when activist Okiya Omtatah filed a petition at the High Court in Nairobi, seeking nullification of the NLC notices because, among other reasons, the affected people were not heard “before the drastic action was taken”.
A day later, High Court judge Wilfrida Okwany certified the case as urgent and ordered a stay.
“To preserve the substratum of the application and the petition, a conservatory order is issued by suspending Gazette notices nos. 11370 and 11371 dated November 1, 2018, pending the inter-parties hearing and determination of the application,” the judge said.
In the suit, Mr Omtatah, who is acting on behalf of the affected persons, has sued NLC chairperson Muhammad Swazuri, NLC as an entity, and Ms Mukolwe.
By denying the parties a chance to be heard, he argues, NLC violated sections of the Fair Administrative Action Act 2015.
He also observes that Ms Mukolwe violated the Constitution in issuing the gazette notice in her acting capacity, a position that Mr Omtatah noted does not exist in the commission.
“There has never been and there is no vacancy in the office of the chairperson of the commission currently held by Prof Muhammad Swazuri. Ms Mukolwe is masquerading as the holder of the non-existent office of the acting chairperson of NLC, which violates sections of the commission’s act on appointment and removal of the chairperson,” Mr Omtatah argues in the petition.
The Chinese contractor constructing Karimenu Dam has been on site for months but is yet to commence work following the impasse between the yet-to-be-relocated locals and State authorities over valuation of the land and the affected property.
The matter is at the High Court and will be mentioned on November 20, 2018.