Building of roads, issuing of title deeds and improving health services topped the agenda when President Uhuru Kenyatta met 150 leaders from Lamu County on Tuesday.
During the talks held at State House, Mombasa, the President said a tender for the building of the Witu-Mokowe road would be advertised in two weeks.
“I will personally make a follow up to ensure that improvement of this road is not delayed. We want to make 2016 a historical year when Lamu County joins the rest of Kenya in development, especially in infrastructure,” said Mr Kenyatta.
He also told the leaders that the Government would release Sh100 million in its Supplementary Budget for improvement of Lamu Hospital in line with the objective of the National Government to upgrade two health facilities in each county to referral hospitals.
Mr Kenyatta will be in Lamu on Thursday and on Friday to issue title deeds to land owners in Mkunumbi.
Land owners in Mapenya, Ndambwe, Swahili Scheme, Kiongwe Township and Mkunumbi villages will be among those to receive their title deeds.
The President is expected to also visit Mpeketoni, which was attacked by terrorists in June 2014.
On Saturday, Mr Kenyatta is expected to issue over 5,000 title deeds for those who own plots in the Waitiki Farm in Likoni, Mombasa.
However, controversy has already erupted after the beneficiaries were told that they have to pay Sh184,000 each.
Mr Joseph Kanyiri, the coordinator of the Waitiki Squatter Settlement Programme, said that the money used to buy the land must be repaid.
He told a public gathering at the Likoni CDF office that the money had been provided by the Settlement Fund Trustee (SFT).
SFT is a government agency that gets money from the National Treasury to buy land to settle squatters.
Mr Kanyiri said that to recover the money, each of the 7,810 occupiers of the land will be required to pay Sh182,000 and an additional Sh2,000 for land registration.
“You will be required to pay this money in three years grace period. Beyond the three years, the amount will earn an annual interest rate of 6.2 per cent. You will occupy the land on a 99-year leasehold,” he said.
Local politicians, led by Woman Representative Mishi Mboko criticised the decision, saying the amount was on the higher side and poor occupiers of the land would not be able to raise it.
“We expected that the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) system would be applied to settle these people. We thought they would be asked to raise only survey and logistics fees that could amount to about Sh12,000 but we are shocked by this exorbitant figure. We are asking President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government to pay it,” she said.
Acting County Executive for Land Anthony Njaramba also protested at the figure saying it was punitive to “the majority poor squatters”.
“If all the 8,000 occupiers paid Sh184, 000, it would raise about Sh1.4 billion which is more than Mr Waitiki received from the government for the land. Then, of what use was the so called assistance?” he asked.
Mr Njaramba said that the county government had received Mr Waitiki’s letter asking for a waiver of unpaid land rates for 18 years. The issue, he added, would be discussed at a later date.
According to Ms Mboko and Mr Njaramba, the government bought the 940-acre Evanson Waitiki Farm for Sh1.2 billion although Mr Kanyiri declined to confirm this saying the negotiations were strictly between the Office of the President and the land owner, Mr Waitiki.
He described the figure that occupiers will pay as reasonable, arguing that each of the plots had a value of between Sh500,000 and Sh1.5 million.
“I think this is a fair sum considering the current value of the land. I think people should consider the bigger benefit,” he said.
He further announced that on Saturday, 5,000 title deeds would be issued covering Phase One of the project.
Phase Two is expected to start in March when an additional 3,000 titles will be issued.
He said the number of beneficiaries had been whittled down from 11,000 to 7,810 after verification.
Some of the applicants were found to own more than a plot, while others lived outside the Waitiki Farm or occupied way leave and public utility plots.
Beneficiaries expressed disappointment at being asked to pay the fee.
“This issue started well but now, it has caused a lot of worries and we fear that we shall lose our property,” said Mr Thomas Orora, a Timbwani village house owner.
Another resident, Mr Mwinyi Zula, asked the government to consider reducing the amount, which he proposed be capped at Sh20,000.
President Kenyatta is set to issue the first batch of the title deeds during a public rally at Caltex Grounds in Likoni on Saturday.
The function initially slated for Tuesday was postponed and the venue changed from Shikaadabu Grounds.
Reported by Kazungu Chai (PSCU), Kalume Kazungu and Daniel Nyassy