James Orengo faces arrest in Lamu land allocations

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Former senior government officials have come under the spotlight after it emerged that 500,000 acres of prime land in Lamu were given out during their tenure.

Former Lands minister James Orengo, Ms Dorothy Angote, who served as PS and Commissioner Zablon Mabea will all be required to record statements.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has warned that culprits in the scandal will be prosecuted.

The prime property, whose titles the President ordered revoked, were issued between 2011 and 2012 under the Grand Coalition government.

Most of it is in an area where the multi-billion shilling Lamu port is to be build as part of the new transport corridor linking Kenya with her northern neighbours of Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Those who acquired the land hope to sell it back to the government at a profit.

Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu Friday hinted that Mr Orengo, Ms Angote and Mr Mabea are being investigated for their alleged roles in the transactions.

Ms Ngilu appeared to lay the blame on Mr Orengo when she told a media briefing that some of the transactions happened during the time of her predecessor.

President Kenyatta’s move came after a meeting with Lamu leaders and drew popular support from the county. But the matter threatened to blow up into another Jubilee/Cord quarrel with Raila Odinga saying it was “a cheap public relations gimmick.”

Mr Odinga instead asked President Kenyatta to implement the Ndung’u and Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission reports that touch on land injustices.

Speaking in Homa Bay County, the Cord leader said of President Kenyatta: “If he is serious in correcting the land injustices in the country, let him start with these two reports where many people have been adversely mentioned”.

“The purported irregular land acquisition in Lamu county is just a tip of the iceberg because there are similar injustices in parts of Rift Valley, Central and Coast Province,” said Mr Odinga

Mr Odinga also said the president had no power to revoke title deeds. Such authority, he added, is instead vested on the National Land Commission.

“Unless the President wants to bring back what used to be done under the Nyayo era, he should know that he has no powers on land matters,” the Cord leader said

ARREST KIBAKI

Speaking at the same function, the burial of a Luo elder, Homa Bay senator Otieno Kajwang challenged Mr Kenyatta to arrest his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki, if indeed land was acquired illegally during his tenure as alleged.

He said in the previous government under the old Constitution, the only person who had powers to allocate land was the President with the assistance of the commissioner of lands.

“Mr Kibaki was the only person who was authorised by law then to allocate land; if any investigation is to be carried out then he should be the first person to be investigated,” he said

Those who may want to use the Lamu land issue to settle political scores will be in for a rude shock, he said.

Mr Kajwang’ said the President should also revoke the titles of the huge chunks of land that his family owns in Taita Taveta.

“If he is indeed genuine, let him revoke titles owned by the Kenyatta family and use it for resettling squatters,” he added.

Suna East MP Junet Mohammed and his Mbita counterpart Millie Odhiambo claimed the president was using Ms Ngilu to usurp the powers of the National Lands Commission.

Sources close to the investigations said the former senior officials and a land surveyor could also be required to explain how some companies described by the government as illegal were allocated land.

CID director Ndegwa Muhoro’s office is handling the investigations and will be briefing President Kenyatta on the progress with the aim of preferring criminal charges against the suspects.

Sources at Mr Muhoro’s office said that Mr Mabea had recorded a statement.

ISUUE STATEMENT ON MONDAY

Speaking at a press conference last evening, Mrs Ngilu said, “Some of the people being investigated include my predecessor”.

However, ODM said ministers were not signatories to title deeds. The Siaya senator will issue a statement on Monday.

On Thursday, President Kenyatta directed the revocation of the titles of 22 companies and asked Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo and Mr Muhoro to start immediate investigations.

He said a few individuals had acquired the land illegally while thousands of families living in the county do not have land.

Cord leaders asked President Kenyatta to stop blaming the last government and concentrate on solving the land issue at the Coast.

They demanded that in addition to revoking the title deeds, the Jubilee administration should implement the recommendations of the Ndung’u report on land grabbing and the findings of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

“We ask that a President who has acted “without fear” in cancelling titles must now act “without favour”. The Ndung’u report and the Truth team report must be implemented in the same way, swiftly and without fear or favour,” they said in a statement.

Ms Angote argued that title deeds for land in the Lapsset corridor were revoked by the previous government in 2010 but said she could not respond to the ones in question unless the LR numbers, dates of issue and signatories were released.

“Either in 2011 or 2012, a decision was taken at the highest level, chaired by then Prime Minister Raila Odinga to revoke the titles. The decision was reached because we knew that those titles will be a problem to the Lapsset project and were issued to the companies in anticipation of the Lamu Port. That decision was taken long way ago,” she said on the phone.

“Because I have not read about the exact titles and when they were issued, I cannot comment on that. But if they are the very titles, what is new? I cannot tell if they are recycling what was done, then,” she said.

REGISTRY SHUT DOWN

Mrs Ngilu also announced that three land registries in the Coast had been shut in a bid to clean them up as the ministry did last May at Ardhi House.
They are in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale.

Directors of one of the companies allocated land in Lamu, the Minister said, had used their title deed to get a loan of Sh1 billion from the National Bank of Kenya.

Last evening, the list of directors of some of the firms came out, showing that 10 of them were not in the database.

They include Witu Nyangoro Ranch (DA) Company  which got 79,534 acres, Witu Conservation Self Help Group (54,201 acres), Baragoni Boni Community  which got  19,760 acres, Mokowe Kibokoni Ranch (6,725 acres), Taabu Company (6,000 acres) and  Pandanguo Boni (2,350 acres).  Lamu Estate Ranch, Enganani and Amu ranches are not registered.

Suprisingly, two of the companies share one name — Bricks Investment Company.

Mr Jonas Geke and Timothy Njuguna Kariuki of Nairobi own the first one registered in August 2011 while Ms Alice Masaa and Ms Margaret Kavulani incorporated a second one in December 2011. Each was allocated 40,014 acres.

Ms Masaa and Ms Kavulani also own Dynamic Trading Company formed in September 2011 and which owns 22,230 acres. A firm with a similar name is owned by Vijay Kumar and Ankit Bhardwaj of Village Market in Nairobi.

Mat International Company  which owns 40,014 acres is owned by Twalib Ali Mohamed and Abdiwahid Haji Yerrow while Shanghai Africa Investment Ltd is owned by John Kiarie, Peter Muchangi Njiru, Peter Mwangi Karenju, Daniel Gacheru Mwangi, Simon Ng’ang’a Wanjohi, Burton Kibui Maina, Michael Nduhiu Kariuki and Jeremiah Mbiata Gikonyo. They own 19,760 acres.

Reporting by By Billy Muiruri, Bernard Namunane and Maurice Kaluoch

-nation.co.ke

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