Mombasa, Kenya: A lawyer who successfully petitioned the State to pay Sh860 million compensation for land acquired for the Lamu port now claims the Government has swindled him Sh100 million in legal fees.
George Wakahiu represented 146 landowners who benefited from the payouts for giving up their land for the construction of Lamu port.
But Mr Wakahiu now claims he has not been given the Sh100 million he is entitled to despite the compensation being finalised early this week. Wakahiu has now threatened to sue State agencies that were giving out the money. He claims that its through his efforts that works for the Sh2 trillion project were postponed until all the 146 clients were compensated.
On February February 10, a Malindi court directed the Kenya Ports Authority to deposit Sh1.35 billion in the National Land Commission (NLC) account in readiness for disbursement to 187 landowners including Wakahiu’s clients.
But Wakahiu told The Standard on Tuesday that he was shocked to learn early this week that his clients were receiving compensation without his knowledge.
He further claims the NLC was supposed to transfer the Sh860 million to his account after receiving it from KPA, but went ahead to pay his clients without his knowledge.
“The NLC erred as it was supposed to either transfer the money to my law firm account or contact me before channelling the money to the beneficiaries’ accounts,” he claimed yesterday.
He added: “Since the Government made a mistake and some of the beneficiaries have already spent the money, it has no option but to pay my legal fees,” he warned.
He further alleges that there was a verbal agreement that he was to receive a fraction of the Sh860 million as his legal fees which he claims was Sh100 million.
But NLC Vice Chairman Abigael Mbagaya told The Standard that the law “was very clear that the commission pays the affected people and not through representatives.”
She said the commission had paid all the landowners who will be affected by the construction of the new port and asked Wakahiu to pursue his clients for his legal fees.
“On the issue of payment, let the lawyer follow his clients and demand for his pay. The law stipulates that we pay the landowners directly and that is what we have done,” said Mbagaya in a phone interview. NLC’s lawyer E D Salumy declined to comment on the matter.