Kenya

National Land Commission now takes supremacy row to court

National Land Commission now takes supremacy row to court
Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu (right) and National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman Mohammed Swazuri.

By Kurian Musa

Nairobi, Kenya: The National Land Commission (NLC) has moved to the Supreme Court seeking an advisory opinion on their mandate as an independent body in the new constitutional dispensation.

Lawyer Tom Ojienda and the commission members appeared before the court to seek an opinion on who should appoint the Registrar of Title Deeds.

They asked the court to address the questions emerging over land leases and renewals, including management of private land in the country.

The Supreme Court has been asked to intervene in land management issues as there is confusion between the Ministry of Lands headed by Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and the NLC led by chairman Mohamed Swazuri.

Ownership rows

Ownership of assets like the housing of the Lands ministry and the NLC officials in the same building has in the past elicited a brawl. The commission has asked the court to help them understand what assets can be owned and used without dispute with the Ministry of Lands.

Issues of budgetary allocation have also been tabled before the court for interpretation. The commission’s current budget comes with its mother ministry, something the NLC has indicated is infringing on their independence.

Queries over who should handle land leases were also raised in the advisory sought from the Supreme Court.

Currently, conveyance of property, sale and construction in real estate and private property management has stalled due to the unclear jurisdiction between the ministry and the commission.

NLC is a baby of the new Constitution, born under Section 67 of the law to end land disputes in the country.

In the case, the Constitution Implementation Commission, Attorney General, Lands ministry and Institute of Surveyors have been lined up as respondents, and the Law Society of Kenya as an interested party.

There have been continued frosty relations between Ngilu and the NLC, which experts say is undermining the crucial land reforms agenda

The latest sign of the difficult relationship came on Tuesday, when Ngilu demanded that the commission vacates Ardhi House, the ministry’s headquarters. This assertion was furiously rejected by Swazuri.

The Land Development and Governance Institute, a respondent in the advisory sought chairman Ibrahim Mwathane, said issues about securing public land and title deeds had deteriorated in recent months.

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