Joho rescinds county decision to pay land rates for occupiers of Waitiki farm

Monday December 5 2016

By NATION TEAM
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The Mombasa County government has rescinded its decision to pay land rates for occupiers of the controversial 930-acre Waitiki farm in Likoni Sub-County.

Speaking Sunday at a rally at the Bomani grounds, Governor Hassan Joho told Likoni residents that it would be “unfair’’ for the residents to pay for the lease certificates while the national government is writing off debts in other parts of the country.

“We will not pay for the land and the residents will stay put in that land. If you want, come and forcefully evict them. This is our right and we will stand firm for our people.

"We are saying that just like the others were given we also deserve to be given land because it is our right,” he said.

However, a majority of the beneficiaries of the land have already paid in full the required amount of Sh182,000.

This puts the county government in a precarious situation, since it pledged to offset the bills through an Order Paper of April 14, 2016.

According to National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri, 75 per cent of the 5,007 occupiers have already paid the amount and have been given their title certificates.

In his September brief, Prof Swazuri said over Sh546 million had been paid by the title holders, with others at different stages of payments and that less than 100 people had not paid a cent by then.

Through a special sitting in April, the Mombasa County Assembly passed a motion to offset the payments for Waitiki certificate holders by committing Sh1.25 billion.

COUNTY FACING DIFFICULTIES

But commenting on the issue, lands, physical planning and housing executive Anthony Njaramba admitted that the county is facing difficulties putting its plan to action because it was still awaiting the Treasury’s approval.

“Yes, the county assembly passed that and even gave us the mandate to do a social economic study to find out the profiles of the occupiers and their economic base so that the payments would not be equal,” he said.

On approval of this, the county would then write to the Treasury so that it could deduct the amount from ther Equalisation Fund that the county gets every month from the national government.

That fund, according to him, could be paid for a maximum of 23 years although the national government plans to pay Sh1,000 per month for 12 years

“If the treasury will agree [to] this arrangement, then it gives us an allowance to pay between Sh3 million and Sh5 million monthly,” he said then.

JOHO CHANGES MIND

But it seems this will not happen, after Governor Joho changed his mind on Sunday, accusing the national government of prejudice.

“We saw that when the president went to Meru he gave Sh1 billion to the miraa farmers to boost their business.

"Recently he visited central Kenya and wrote off Sh2 billion in debts owed by coffee farmers,” Joho said.

He lamented that when the president and his deputy come to the Coast region, it is termed a “meet the people tour” but in their backyards it is a “development tour”.

On January 9, President Kenyatta issued 5,007 leasehold titles, out of a total of 7,807, to the beneficiaries of the Waitiki land.

In brokering the deal with the owner, Evanson Kamau Waitiki, in November 2015, the government agreed to bail out the occupiers but required each beneficiary to pay Sh1,000 monthly for 12 years to clear the Sh182,000.

According to a government valuation, the average market value for each parcel is above the amount charged because an acre of land in the same area is selling for Sh40 million.

Reports by Mohamed Ahmed, Brian Ocharo and Mwakera Mwajefa.