President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday made the clearest statement yet about his stand in the superiority war between Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and the National Lands Commission chairman Ahmed Swazuri when he made an impromptu visit to the ministry. He arrived at Ardhi House at 3.30pm and was met by the minister who had received information the President was in his way.

A ministry official who did not want to be identified said: “The President has been here. He was escorted by only two outriders. He was in a black car. The Cabinet Secretary met him at the lifts downstairs. He spent about an hour here, leaving at about 4.30pm. He was taken around the section where we are doing the digitisation of lands records and given a briefing about the scope of the job and the progress.”

Experts said the symbolism of the trip at a time Ngilu and Swazuri have virtually declared war on each other will send a strong message about where he stands in the squabble. NLC yesterday moved to court seeking to suspend the decision by Ngilu to close lands registries.

They are also seeking an order to give the commission officials unfettered access to Ardhi House, which has been a no-go zone for them since Monday.

The commission further wants the court to issue an order declaring the notices by Ngilu closing the registries as null and void. NLC’s view is that the Ngilu’s directive constitutes a blatant abuse of office and undermines the rule of law.

They said the public notices she gave on May 2 and 4 have in effect stopped the NLC from carrying out its constitutional mandate. The NLC said in implementing the notices, Ngilu has paralysed its operations.

In their suit papers filed under certificate of urgency, the NLC said it is apprehensive that Ngilu has deployed university students at Ardhi House to handle documents.

“The said strangers are handling documents at the Records Registry which otherwise fall within the sole constitutional and statutory mandate of the Commission,” reads the suit papers in part.

NLC says the alleged strangers are now handling records and registers and may tamper with the records by introducing new documents or plucking them out, an exercise which would gravely prejudice its operations.

The commission and its staff are now working under instructions and continued intimidation from ministry officials, the court was told.

NLC told the court that since Monday, the ministry has deployed a contingent of heavily armed officers to the main gate, entry to every floor and all corners of Ardhi House. The commission said Ngilu’s decision has denied the public an opportunity to transact business at Lands offices.

However, the commission did not get any orders against Ngilu immediately. High Court judge David Majanja certified the matter urgent and directed that suit papers be served on all parties. The commission’s case will be heard this morning.

Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko also visited the Lands offices on Wednesday afternoon, although the purpose of his mission was not clear. The senator spent three hours in meetings inside Ardhi House whose access has been blocked to the public and some staff. An associate said the senator had gone on a fact-finding mission following the wrangles between Ngilu and the commission.

Some 25 Coast MPs yesterday called for the removal of Charity Ngilu from the Lands ministry. The MPs said Ngilu is frustrating efforts by the government to address land problems at the Coast.

They said her meddling in the affairs of the National Land Commission is a scheme to subject Coast residents to abject poverty by denying them the most precious asset they could have.

“The NLC is a constitutional commission with a mandate distinct from the Lands ministry. Let Ngilu do her work and (NLC chair Mohamed Swazuri do his,” said Coast Parliamentary Group chairman Gideon Mung’aro.

The Kilifi North MP said Coast people feel oppressed by the constant wrangles between Ngilu and swazuri and asked President Uhuru to intervene.

They were speaking at a press conference at Whitesands hotel in Mombasa on the sidelines of a workshop on the Mining Bill 2014 on Thursday.

Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi said Ngilu is not fit to hold any cabinet position saying she has sparked controversy in all the ministries she has held in the country.

Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu said they are tired of answering difficult questions asked by their constituents about land.

  • the-star.co.ke

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