National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri has dismissed calls for his resignation over the Ruaraka land saga, saying “we are here to stay”.
Prof Swazuri vowed to hang onto his coveted job despite pressure for him to quit over the controversial Sh1.5 billion payment to Afrison Export Import Limited and Hueland Limited, which claimed to own land on which Drive Inn Primary and Ruaraka High schools sit. The companies are owned by Mr Francis Mburu.
Since the scandal broke out, Prof Swazuri has maintained that the contentious land is a private property and that the scandal is a creation of the media. On Wednesday in his office in Nairobi, he said as much and alleged there was a plot by the media and a section of government officials to push him and fellow commissioners out.
“Only cowards resign because of intimidation. We are here to stay and help President Uhuru Kenyatta realise his Big Four agenda,” he said.
Different government agencies have clashed over the ownership of the 96 acres in Ruaraka, whose title is held by Deposit Protection Fund, the Central Bank of Kenya, appointed liquidator of Mr Phillip Wahome’s Continental Bank of Kenya. The unanswered question has been whether Mr Mburu had the right to compensation for a property already charged.
The NLC, which paid Sh1.5 billion to the businessman, says Mr Mburu is the freehold owner of the property, with Prof Swazuri maintaining that the agency committed no irregularity in paying for the land.
The visibly agitated Swazuri said several arms of government and authorities have in the past approved the land as private property. He said they include the Office of the Attorney-General, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Land and the National Assembly Committee on Land.
The bigger picture of the history of the land continues to emerge, and it has been pointed out that the government may as well have paid compensation to a land that had already been surrendered during the hiving off of the plot on which the General Service Unit houses stand.
But Afrison has claimed that the condition was “not acceptable” and that the developer, Drive Inn Estate Developers Limited, wrote to then Director of City Planning and cancelled the entire application for sub-division.
Prof Swazuri said that the commission was informed about the land in July 2015, when Afrison Export Import Limited sought its intervention.
“The gist of the complaint was that its property had been illegally occupied, which occupation he contested for over 30 years without much help or success,” the chairman said.
Mr Mburu had apparently written to NLC, on August 17, 2016, complaining that persons unknown to him had been invading the property – LR No7879/4 and had settled on it. He said schools, government administrative offices, roads and other supports services had been constructed on the land without his consent. But was it Mr Mburu’s land, or land charged to the bank?
The NLC, Prof Swazuri said, pursued the matter with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning, the Attorney-General and others, to confirm the claims and the status of the land in question.
The Attorney-General too, he said, wrote an advisory opinion to the Ministry of Education on July, 7, 2017, confirming the public interest of the schools and the need for compulsory acquisition since the institutions were on private land.
“The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education wrote to the NLC on March, 17 acknowledging the complaint and confirming that indeed there were public schools built on the private land.
“The CS then formally requested the commission to guide it in the requisite formal process and secure public interest, by acquiring the land on which the schools stand,” Prof Swazuri said.
“If all these have done their investigations in the past and confirmed in writing that the land is indeed private, why is it then that we have these confrontations? This is pure witch-hunt and it is very unfair to the commission,” he said.
SURRENDER TITLE DEED
He also said that records at the Ministry of Land indicated that as of March 28, 1984, the registered owner objected the conditional approval of the subdivision by the Nairobi City Council.
“If a subdivision is approved and all conditions are accepted by the applicant, requisite approval fees are applicable and a new survey is undertaken.”
“Planning requirements form part of the conditions and may require that the applicant surrenders a specific part of the land (10 per cent) for public utilities and purposes,” he said adding that upon surrender, a Deed of Surrender must be prepared and put on record.
Last week, Mr Mburu, his two sons and businessman, John Mutwiri were arrested and interrogated by EACC.