Tobiko: Bahati MP Ngunjiri among bigshots named in Kiambu Forest land grab

NATIONAL |

Bahati Mp Kimani Ngunjiri addressing the press in Nakuru over the withdrawal of deputy president William Ruto's security on August 26, 2021. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has named influential individuals and politicians who were illegally and irregularly allocated 106.38 hectares of the vast Kiambu Forest.

Bahati MP Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri who is also a director of Agropack Limited is said to have been allocated 6.795 hectares of the forest land.

Others are Bedan Mbugua Gikebe, Antony Muchiri Gikebe and Philomena Wangari Gikebe who were allocated 25 hectares through their company, Wibeso Investments Limited. The three are listed as directors owning one share each.

Mr Tobiko revealed this while appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations and Security Committee on Tuesday.

Others who the CS said had been illegally allocated huge tracts of the forest land include Mike Maina Kamau and Nguru Muregi Wachira, through their company Pelican Engineering and Company Limited. The company was allocated 29.68 hectares of the land.

Kamau, a director, is the biggest shareholder with 100,000 shares, said the CS.

The late former Limuru MP and businessman Kuria Kanyingi was also allocated 15 hectares. The title document was issued under the Kama Agencies Limited Company, owned by Kanyingi.

Kiambaa (Nyakinyua) Women Group was also allocated Sh39.82 hectares with the group having developed the land.

“A gazetted forest can only be reallocated if it is degazetted and the degazettement must also be approved by Parliament,” testified Tobiko.

“In 1999, a further illegal excision of 15.0 hectares was done and allocated to Mr Kuria Kanyingi. The remaining 14.5 ha was claimed by Hon Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri. However, this area is forested with indigenous trees,” added the CS.

Making his presentation before the Senate virtually, he emphasized that the areas developed within Kiambu Forest Reserve remain as public forest since they were not degazetted and were therefore not available for alienation.

The CS also attached copies of court documents including affidavits sworn by the claimants of the land against the government through the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). However, some claimants withdrew the cases.

Tobiko said that the government through KFS has instituted several measures to recover the parcels of grabbed land. This includes the issuance of eviction notice to the beneficiaries of the illegal allocations and publishing public notice in the newspaper to prevent further grabbing and subdivision of the forest.

The government, said the CS, has also placed a caveat, intensified surveillance and patrols to secure the forest and requested National Land Commission (NLC) to review grants believed to have been irregularly issued in the forest.

“The beneficiaries of the illegal land allocation went to court and filed a suit. The applicants sought to quash the decision contained in the caveat emptor notice declaring a portion of the protected Kiambu Reserve and warning the general public against any purchase thereof,” he stated.

Tobiko explained that the commission had in 2017 informed KFS that it had received numerous inquiries by landowners whose plots they had determined to be part of the forest.

NLC had resolved to carry out an inquiry on the allocation of the forest but this was not feasible as the jurisdiction of the commission ended.

“To this end, we recommend that the expired mandate of the NLC to review grants of the illegally acquired public land be renewed through an appropriate legislative amendment by Parliament,” said Tobiko.

The committee chaired by Kisumu Senator Fred Outa is investigating the murder of environmentalist Joannah Stutchbury and claims of grabbing and encroachment of the forest land.

The probe commenced following a petition by 13 conservationist’s groups and human rights defenders who urged the Senate to investigate the murder of Stutchbury and alleged encroachment of the forest.

They claimed that the conservationist was killed by grabbers of the forest land.

“The petitioners pray that the Senate investigate the circumstances leading to the alleged murder of Joannah Stutchbury and other environmentalists and conservationists in the country,” reads the petition.

Stutchbury was shot dead outside her home in Kiambu county in July.

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