Hundreds of Kenyans whose leases have either expired or are about to are falling prey to cartels that take over their parcels due to lack of laws.
Regulations have not been developed since the Land Act, Land Registration Act, National Land Commission Act and Community Land Act took effect, therefore, creating a loophole that enables the cartels to subvert the law and take over people’s property with impunity.
Given this, some private developers have been colluding with various Lands ministry officials to fraudulently process extensions or renew land leases.
National Lands Commission official Abdulkadir Khalif said the most affected areas are in Nairobi’s city centre, Westlands, Parklands, Ngara and Mombasa where the cartels scout for land registered in the names of legitimate but dead owners or that has or is about to expire as well as vacant plots.
Although the exact number of parcels of land affected remains unknown, it is estimated at thousands of acres.
Last year, the Cabinet froze the renewal of land leases in a bid to rein in cartels that were forcibly acquiring property from people whose leases were expiring.
But in June this year, the moratorium was lifted through a Kenya Gazette notice signed by Lands Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi.
However, more and more occupants of leasehold properties in the city continue falling victim to the con men that collude with Lands officials.
And though the law is clear that priority for renewal should be given to those occupying the land, they have been dispossessed of their property after hired goons, who rely on forged ownership documents claiming the property, forcibly evict them.
In an interview with the Nation, Mr Khalif said cartels had been using counterfeit documents to grab land.
“Cases have been reported of legitimate files being hidden. Some people have been quietly working on the process of renewal of leases in their names and have been delaying the registration of the legitimate owner but hastening to give the crooks a new lease,” he said.
In December last year, the Nairobi County government confirmed that a disputed parcel in Westlands, where a house was demolished by a gang, belonged to Nazmudin Kurji.
The house owned by the elderly Kurjis was demolished by people who claimed they were the rightful owners.
Later, it was confirmed that although the lease had expired since it was issued in 1904, no other party had applied for it and then governor Evans Kidero said county officials were not aware the lease had been renewed in someone else’s name.
In the same month, another family in the same estate was rescued from a gang that wanted to evict them on the account that the property had changed hands.
In another case, two Asian brothers also accused a developer by the name Tarabana of building on their land in Ngara.
Mr Harbhajan Singh and Mr Jaswaran Singh claimed the company bought the land from another firm, Rospatech Ltd, which had grabbed the land by doctoring documents by circumventing lease renewal procedures.
The family, who said they were the initial owners of the property, were evicted in 2014.
Yet another businessman, Mr Karim Jetha, who is a director of Sayani Investments, which owns Caxton House on Kenyatta Avenue, said there were fraudulent efforts to dispossess them of the property.
Mr Khalif said the system of checks at the Lands ministry had collapsed.
Investigations show unscrupulous land administration officers provide information on expired leases or those about to and help in facilitating of allotment letters for new owners.
New deed plans to support new leases are then generated in liaison with equally crooked government officers at the Survey offices and the new documents are then registered at the Land Registry.
A task force formed to unearth the mystery behind the land leases is compiling its report. “The findings will be made public when we are done,” said Mr Ibrahim Mwathane, the chairman.