Shocking land fraud revealed
Hundreds of unsuspecting settlers, many with forged title deeds, face eviction following discovery of massive fraud in the allocation of public and private land on a scale unprecedented in Kenya’s history.
A taskforce says the shocking level of land-related fraud in Mavoko Municipality is a wake-up call for the Government, as it is likely to have been replicated in other parts of the country.
So bad is the rot that it has the potential of deterring investment in Athi River District that could create much needed jobs, and has also prevented the National Housing Corporation (NHC) from building low cost housing in the area.
But before the evictions, the police and Ministry of Lands will have to determine if the beneficiaries have legal title deeds and if any of them will be compensated.
A majority of those targeted for eviction are living on land belonging to Government institutions, including Kenya Airports Authority, East African Portland Cement Company, Numerical Machining Complex, NHC and the National Social Security Fund.
Most of the land allocations by the Municipal Council of Mavoko are irregular, yet it continues to receive land rates and issue Rates Clearance Certificates without verifying ownership.
The taskforce says in its report obtained by The Standard and KTN that the matter is directly related to rising insecurity in Mavoko Municipiality due to increased conflict over land, as genuine owners struggle to evict illegal settlers.
Implicated in the fraud which occurred over many years going back to the 1990s is the Commissioner of Lands, Land Control Boards, Lands Registry, Municipal Council of Mavoko, local politicians and speculators operating as self-help groups.
The council has no trust land and all the fraud relates to public and private freehold and leasehold land.
The report implicates prominent personalities in the present and past governments who irregularly benefited from public land and turned them into private property.
Of 30 title deeds presented to the taskforce during its investigations, 10 (or 33 per cent) were forgeries.
It is more damning evidence of the scale irregular acquisition of public land in Kenya. The anatomy of land fraud depicted in the report shows how parcels stretching over 18,000 acres belonging to State corporations and government institutions were invaded by land speculators, who sold them off to unsuspecting individuals and issued them with fake title deeds.
Parcels of lands belonging to churches, self help groups and individuals were similarly targeted for invasion and fraudulent sale.
The Commissioner of Lands is linked to multiple allocations of land in Athi River District. The Commissioner and Municipal Council of Mavoko have been allocating land "without consulting each other", says the taskforce. At the same time, the District Land Registry in Machakos has been working with speculators by "intentionally delaying issuance of search certificates thus creating an opportunity for land speculators to mislead potential buyers".
But the owners and settlers have hard luck. Demolitions of structures belonging to senior government officials, former military chiefs and prominent businessmen are among those targeted in Athi River in a planned eviction.
The Taskforce Report on Irregular and Appropriation of Public Land and the Squatter Problem in Athi River has been submitted to the Office of the President for action and is in the hands of Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti.
Structures earmarked for destruction include buildings erected on land earmarked for the Mavoko Stadium, which was grabbed and allocated to individuals.
Already the newly formed Land Fraud CID unit is on the ground investigating eight main suspects who include a former mayor for Mavoko in connection with the illegal sale of parcels of land in the area. It was not immediately clear if the investigations will include a former senior military general believed to be untouchable.
It is after the team comes up with their report that the exercise is expected to kick off, probably before the end of this month.
The taskforce says the beneficiaries of Mavoko Stadium land include two former military chiefs, a senior official at the Treasury, a sitting Member of Parliament and a former colleague and media owner, among other prominent business persons.
The report indicates there were 154 beneficiaries who were allocated the stadium land by then Machakos DC Zachary Ogongo, and Town Clerk P M Mailu.
The report says the allocation in June 1994 was irregular as it left the municipality without a stadium.
"This allocation while authorised by the Commissioner of Lands on February 18, 1994 remains irregular. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that that the authorisation be reversed and the land reverted for the development of a municipal stadium," reads part of the report.
The report recommends that the local municipality must acquire land forcefully for cemetery and dumping site. Apart from the beneficiaries thousands of other people who have settled on illegally allocated land in area are to be evicted in the eviction.
The land is privately and publicly owned but unscrupulous spectators formed unregistered land buying companies and sold them to unsuspecting individuals.
The taskforce also identified eight fraudsters who have been behind the illegal business in the past years.
Some of the fraudsters targeted for questioning and arrest forged court orders to cover their actions. One of them is said to have formed a non-existent group called Settle Villagers Scheme and Trustee for Kenya National Organisation of Victims of Ethnic Clashes and led an invasion of a private land.
Two other suspected fraudsters are former mayors of Mavoko who are said to have sold part of the land and obtained money by false pretence after forming fake groups.
Another suspect earmarked for questioning is a former chief in the area for allegedly leading an invasion onto a private land.
"Those who have settled on illegally acquired or irregularly allocated land must be evicted and land reverted to the lawful owners who may need to be assisted to access their land," reads part of the report.
Mr John Abduba, who chaired the taskforce, said there are no squatters in Athi River, but only 10,000 slum dwellers staying on the affected land.
To ensure the recommendations of the taskforce are effected a new DC has been posted to the district and a ban on the Land Control Board lifted. The taskforce wants the entire security teams in Athi River transferred and Mlolongo Police Station placed under the command of Embakasi.
It also wants a new police team in the area to prevent future invasion of public and private land, and that Mavoko Municipal Council stop accepting payment of rates based on share certificates.