Panic over titles as Charity Ngilu, House committee tell off National Lands Commission

Panic over titles as Charity Ngilu, House committee tell off National Lands Commission

Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and the parliamentary committee on land have accused the National Lands Commission (NLC) of creating panic in the real estate and financial sectors through a declaration revoking titles issued since March, last year.

Last evening, it emerged that the fate of hundreds or probably thousands of land titles is uncertain after NLC termed documents being processed at the Lands ministry illegal. NLC Chairperson Muhammad Swazuri declared land leases and title deeds issued by the ministry as null and void.

Dr Swazuri warned the public and banks that any title issued after March 1, 2013 and does not bear the commission's seal is not a legal document and should not be used for any transaction.

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Swazuri's deputy Abigael Mukolwe said the notice was necessary to stop confusion and fraudsters who are producing titles using the ministry. "The law gives the commission powers to issue grants on public land and any land that may be private but under leasehold cannot be subdivided without the consent of the commission," Ms Mukolwe said, explaining the paid-up advert published in local dailies.

Scare banks

Ngilu and National Assembly Departmental Committee on Lands Chairman Alex Muiru have told off the NLC over the latest notice, terming it alarmist. "The chairman of the commission should read the Constitution and the laws to understand his role instead of creating anxiety. He is now scaring banks instead of using available internal channels to address any issues which is most unfortunate," Muiru said.

Ngilu insisted that the commission was trying to encroach into the chief registrar of titles' functions and seeking to have a role in the management of private land which is not in their hands.

"The commission should understand its role and stop spreading panic. I am sure banks understand the law and will not be scared by the purported notice revoking titles issued by the registrar," she said.

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The CS referred to article 67 of the Constitution and letters from the Attorney General and the Commission for the implementation of the Constitution (CIC) that affirmed the ministry's position that the NLC has no role in title registration.

Ngilu said she has since published a lease form in accordance to the Land Registration Act, and with the appointment of the chief lands registrar, titles and leases on private land are being registered.

On February 11, AG Githu Muigai argued that whereas the NLC is involved in designation of registration units, the Act mandated the chief lands registrar and county registrar to maintain registers.

Misleading notice

"Given that by dint of section 14 (c) of the Act, the registrar can decline to register, then follows the power to register titles lies with the registrar. Section 26 (1) of the Act confirms the registrar as the issuer of titles whose signature and seal constitutes evidence of certificate of title," Githu's letter to Ngilu read in part.

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In September last year, after Swazuri published a notice insisting the commission shall have a role in registering grant and leases, the CIC wrote to Swazuri saying the notice was illegal.

"There does not appear anywhere in section 134 referred in the public notice, any reference to the power of the NLC to register titles to allocations in settlements schemes as the notice alleges," CIC Chairman Charles Nyachae wrote.

According to the CIC boss, a grant of public land is issued in the name of NLC bearing its seal but a grant is not a certificate of title or lease as defined by section 2 of the Act and thus the form of certificate is prescribed by the CS and therefore who executes or signs the title is indicated in the prescribed form.

"In view of the provisions of the Constitution and the law, CIC is of the view that public notice issued by NLC on the preparation and signing of titles is misleading and has no legal basis," Nyachae's letter dated October 25, 2013 and copied to Ngilu, reads.

On Sunday, CORD leader Raila Odinga waded into the controversy claiming that land crimes are taking root in the country again including illegal takeover of individual and community-owned land, illegal sub-division and sale of land and grabbing by Government officials.

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Raila said hope for land reforms is fading with the opaqueness at the Lands ministry and the spirited effort to render the NLC ineffective. "I therefore wish to challenge the Government to publish the list of all pieces of land whose leases have expired and what is being done with them," he said.

However, Ngilu hit out at the Opposition leader saying he has no moral authority to comment on land issues having presided over a regime that saw huge chunks of land allocated in Lamu to private individuals.

"Someone just lands from Mozambique where he was observing elections and comments about the Karen land. Raila should be the last person to comment on land matters since he supervised Orengo (former Lands minster) who presided over the allocation of 500,000 acres of land in Lamu," she said.

The CS was speaking in Karen after she arrived to face MPs who have begun a probe into the alleged grabbing of the controversial Sh8 billion land.

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