The dispute over Sh17 billion unpaid land rates between Tata Chemicals Magadi and the Kajiado County Government has taken a new twist after the devolved unit ordered the closure of its depot.
Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku on Monday ordered the investor to shut down its Kajiado town depot for contravening local laws.
However closure of the transshipment facility cum depot was postponed to Tuesday after county officers sent to enforce the order met resistance from security guards at the premises.
"We are open for negotiations to solve the matter amicably. Closing down the depot will deny the company much needed business and dent Kajiado's image to potential partners." said Tata Chemicals board chairman Steve Moiko.
The move comes just two weeks after Tata Chemicals said it would not pay Sh17 billion demanded by the county government as land rates due.
Last weekend, Tata bulldozers flattened new County Government offices at Magadi town that were under construction as the dispute deepened. The offices were said to be on Tata Chemicals’ leased land.
Escalation of the row is expected to affect operations at Tata, which harvests soda ash from Lake Magadi and packages the raw material for onward transit to Mombasa Port.
The depot, which also serves as a railway substation, is serviced by more than 70 employees.
Mr Lenku maintains that the company, a part of Indian multinational conglomerate Tata Group, contravened the County's Finance Act, Public Health Act and the National Government’s Mining Act (2016).
But even as the firm said it is ready to negotiate, Mr Lenku maintained that his government will not discuss further regarding compliance with local laws.
"I am ordering the depot in Kajiado to be closed over the high levels of environmental pollution. The residents around the depot have complained for long … We cannot have a multinational that wants to choose the laws it will comply with. All our investors have been complying. We have no preferential treatment to anyone," he said.