Swazuri ‘illegally paid’ for railway land, House team told

Monday April 3 2017

Mr Mugo Njeru before the National Assembly’s Lands Committee, which is investigating National Land Commission boss Muhammad Swazuri over alleged corruption.

Former journalist Mugo Njeru when he appeared before the National Assembly’s Lands Committee that is investigating NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

The National Land Commission might have wasted millions of shillings of public funds by paying to acquire land that was already reserved for the railway, it emerged on Monday.

A member of the commission told the National Assembly Lands Committee on Monday that the large payments were made in December last year and attempts to get hold of information on the matter had been frustrated by the secretariat of the commission.

Among the plots of land were at least five parcels in Embakasi valued at a combined Sh215 million.

Mr Abdulkadir Khalif said: “It looks like the secretariat does most of the work. It is never referred to the commission. Only if there is a dispute of ownership does it come to the commission. If there is no dispute, the payment goes ahead.”

Mr Khalif said he developed an interest in the deals after noticing that there were a lot of payments for land in Embakasi, Nairobi and Miritini in Mombasa over December, when most of the commissioners were away. He said his requests to get information on the payments was ignored by the secretariat for two months. “I have not heard from the chairman or the CEO to date,” he said.

He said commissioners may not even be aware and only when issues came up, such as the case that resulted in a petition by Mr Mugo Njeru for the removal of commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri, did they notice.

In the case, the committee has been told that the land in question had been identified by the Kenya Railways Corporation as part of a rail road reserve.

COMMITTEE HEARINGS

A letter presented by Dr Swazuri showing that the railways corporation had said the land was not theirs was disowned by the commissioners, who told the committee they had seen it for the first time at the committee hearings.

Commissioner Emma Njogu said the commission had been informed by Kenya Railways that land adjacent to a plot claimed by Mr Njeru was a railway reserve, and the commission would, therefore, not have to pay for it. However, they learnt that the land had been paid for when Mr Njeru sued to stop the pay-out.

She said one of the letters written by Dr Swazuri “was not tabled before the commission and whatever decision is contained in it has no legal basis”.

“This could be one case where the commission was not involved. It is not the usual thing. This is an isolated case,” she added.

The management of the commission’s affairs was called into question after Mr Khalif admitted that Dr Swazuri often made decisions single-handedly. Some of the decisions were rejected by the rest of the commission but were implemented anyway. “The chairman is a very busy person and sometimes we have budgetary constraints and can’t accompany him everywhere, therefore, he will do a lot of things on his own. Sometimes he will go with one or two of us,” said Mr Khalif.

Commissioners Silas Kinoti, Dr Rose Musyoka, Dr Samuel Tororei and Ms Njogu all said a letter by Prof Swazuri stating that the compensation for the plot should be shared between Dasahe Investment Ltd and Mr Njeru’s wife, Editor Irima, should have been ratified.

“I’m not aware that the commission has ever sat on this matter. This is abnormal because when you say the commission has recommended, then it does not need to ratify that at a plenary,” said Mr Kinoti.

DISOWNED LETTERS

The committee continued with its sittings without mention of a court order Dr Swazuri has obtained to stop Parliament from handling the matter.

He said the expectation is usually that the chairman’s decision will be discussed by the commission proper.

“Does that happen always? No. Should it happen? Yes,” he added.

“We never even imagined that such a thing could happen. We waited too long. Tuliwachilia tu kidogo (We just let it go for a little while),” he added.

Mr Khalif was among members of the National Land Commission who disowned letters signed by Prof Swazuri, making decisions on two plots claimed by a man who wants the chairman removed from office.

The committee continued its sittings on the petition without any mention of the court order Prof Swazuri has obtained to stop Parliament from handling the matter.

The commissioners separately met the Lands Committee of the National Assembly, which is considering the petition by former journalist Mugo Njeru.

Commissioners Silas Kinoti, Dr Rose Musyoka, Dr Samuel Tororei and Emma Njogu all said a letter by Prof Swazuri stating that the compensation for a plot should be shared between Dasahe Investment Ltd and Mr Mugo’s wife, Editor Irima.

The committee has narrowed down on the letters, in which Prof Swazuri made decisions, directed for compensation to be paid but then said the decision would have to be ratified by the commission in a plenary meeting.