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Tobiko to shed light on forest land grabbing

Saturday July 04 2020
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Environment CS Keriako Tobiko with leaders from arid and semi-arid areas in Narok in March. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SAMWEL OWINO

Six key questions on grabbing of gazetted forested areas across the country await Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko when he appears before the National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Monday.

Mr Tobiko was summoned by MPs following his remarks over the pending demolition of houses built on grabbed land that was hived off Ngong forest.

The committee chaired by Maara lawmaker Kareke Mbiuki wants the CS to lay bare all the encroached forests in the country, indicating when the encroachment began, the total acreage of the original forest and the encroached areas and what the ministry is doing to mitigate encroachment of such forests.

In a letter dated June 29 sent to the CS seen by the Sunday Nation, CS Tobiko will be required to provide details of any legal excision of any forest that may have taken place, indicating the law under which such excision may have applied.

The lawmakers also want CS Tobiko to provide details of repossession efforts by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) for the encroachment of forest land in the country and the current status.

On the Ngong forest issue, which caused uproar on the floor of the House over the impending demolition of multimillion-shilling properties, the lawmakers want CS Tobiko to provide legal status of the forest and history for its excision or de-gazzetment since its proclamation in 1932

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In addition, MPs also want Mr Tobiko to provide a detailed action plan of the government in repossessing all the encroached forest land across the country. “Provide information on the government policy on innocent Kenyans who may have possessed land in un-degazzeted areas prior to the enactment of the Forest Act Cap 385 and the Forest Conservation and Management Act No.34 of 2016,” reads part of the letter to the CS

The National Assembly has put on hold any demolitions planned in the affected areas until the CS appears before the committee to answer all the questions raised and a report is prepared and adopted by the House.

The committee chairman told the Sunday Nation that besides the Ngong Forest, the committee will be looking at all gazetted forests in holistic and determine the ones which were partly de-gazzeted legally and the ones with illegal encroachments.

“We need to put to rest uncertainty in land sector by highlighting on encroached areas and making potential buyers beware of dangers in investing in such land,” Mr Mbiuki told the Sunday Nation.

“We have scheduled a meeting with the CS on Monday on this matter where he has made public pronouncement on. The issue of Ngong Forest is an emotive one and we want to have a session with him to address all the pending issues. Until then he should not take any action on the residents,” Mr Mbiuki added.

Mr Tobiko was invited after residents of Royal Park, Sun Valley I and II, Lang’ata Gardens, Langa’ta View Gardens and Forest Edge estates petitioned parliament urging the House to instruct CS Tobiko to follow the law and get proper information from the Land ministry regarding Ngong Forest.

The residents have also argued that they legally acquired the title deeds from relevant government offices and have been paying land rates, adding that the government has over the years provided common utility services such as water and sewerage, electricity, paved roads among other facilities.

Minority Leader John Mbadi warned CS Tobiko against reckless statements that threaten the lives of innocent Kenyans, who innocently bought land in the area.

Seme MP James Nyikal, who admitted owning two houses in the area, said he did all due diligence before buying land in the areas and putting on the houses.

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