NLC defies Uhuru on titles revocation

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THE National Land Commission has defied the Executive Order issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the alleged Lamu land scam and instead launched its own investigation.

NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri announced yesterday that the review of the 500,000 acres allocations will be conducted between the 21st and 28th of this month.

“Under Section 14 of the NLC Act, the commission is mandated to, on its own motion, or upon a complaint by the national or county government, a community or an individual, review all grants and dispositions (titles) to public land to establish their propriety or legality,” Swazuri said in a notice to the public.

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The move by a commission that has always been at loggerheads with the executive – particularly the ministry of Lands – now means that they have downplayed the presidential directive.

In his terse statement last week, Uhuru had directed the NLC and the ministry of Lands “to revoke and repossess these land parcels with immediate effect”.

“The level of impunity revealed by the audit is unprecedented, untenable and unacceptable,” Uhuru said on Friday. “In light of the foregoing, I now direct the Cabinet secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development and the National Land Commission to revoke and repossess these land parcels with immediate effect.”

But speaking to land stakeholders at Serena Hotel, Nairobi, yesterday, NLC vice-chair Abigael Mbagaya maintained that due process as stated in Section 14 of the NLC Act will be followed.

“We have put out a public notice for the owners of these lands to come and tell the commission how they got the land,” she stated. This means that the land titles may not be revoked altogether.

According to Section 14 (7) of the NLC Act on review of grants and dispositions, “no revocation of title shall be effected against a bona fide purchaser for value without notice of a defect in the title”.

Mbagaya however warned that where the commission finds that the titles were acquired in an unlawful manner, they will be revoked. “Where the commission finds that the title was irregularly acquired, the commission shall take appropriate steps to correct the irregularity,” she stated.

It has also emerged that the commission is investigating some 44 more land allocations over and above the 22 that were announced on Lamu by Uhuru. The review of these cases will be conducted between August 18 and September 5.

The complaints published in the notice concern land in Kakamega, Nairobi, Nakuru, Lamu, Mombasa, Kilifi, Embu, Machakos, Kisumu and Trans Nzoia counties.

Persons with information on the complaints have been asked to make submissions to the commission by 5pm on August 15. Kenya Land Alliance chief executive officer Odenda Lumumba yesterday strongly criticised Uhuru on the Lamu issue, terming his statement “political rhetoric”.

Lumumba faulted the presidential audit, insisting that 70 per cent of land in Lamu is about 1,123,848 acres and not 500,000 as announced by the President.

“To me land reforms in this country are not on-course. There is no political goodwill,” he said. “The President’s speech on Lamu was purely political rhetoric.”

The Opposition, led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has slammed Uhuru over the move to revoke titles, insisting that he has no powers to do so.

Raila has instead asked the Head of State to implement the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report that delved comprehensively into land matters, including historical injustices.

– the-star.co.ke

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