The National Land Commission has caved in to pressure finally to release Sh4 billion as part of compensation for the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway.
The commission said it received Sh10.2 billion from Kenya Railways for the compensation of Phase 2A project affecting persons from Rongai, Ngong to Mai Mahiu including the Suswa station.
But the commission says it has verified all supporting documents received relating to compensation claims for the project and released payment of Sh4 billion.
"A special team has been formed to fast-track compensation for the affected persons in order to enable the contractor access the identified land and complete the project on time," NLC said in a statement.
It, however, noted that in the absence of relevant documents, the commission is unable to process the remaining cases.
"It is noted that the affected persons particularly on Ngong station, Mai Mahiu and Suswa have not submitted their documents. We therefore call upon affected persons who have not submitted or collected their claim documents to do so urgently to enable us finalise their payments," the statement adds. This means that NLC still has over Sh7 billion sitting in its accounts.
The payment comes days after Kenya Railways protested the refusal by the NLC to release the money meant for the land owners.
In the land compensation feud that has dogged President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pet project, Kenya Railways is also threatening court action arguing that the delay persists despite the money having hit the land commission's bank accounts last year.
Four letters from Kenya Railways have fallen over deaf ears at the land commission and now the corporation is threatening to sue the Swazuri commission.
Kenya Railways acting managing director Philip Mainga notes in a letter to the commission that Railway Development Levy Fund advisory committee approved funds for compensation of the land owners last year for the acquisition of land for the Nairobi–Naivasha (Phase 2A) Standard Gauge Railway Project.
“To this end, the Government released to the NLC the 1st batch of Sh7.5 billion and 2nd batch of Sh10.2 billion in October and December 2018 respectively,” Mainga wrote attaching letters requesting for the payment release from the ministry.
The corporation wrote the letters requesting the payments on October 1, 2018. Other follow up letters were written on the October 25, 2018 and December 6, 2018.
“Since the release of the said funds, the commission has not been disbursing the funds to the PAPs (Project Affected Persons) progressively and as agreed during our various conversations,” Mainga wrote.
But it appears four letters have fallen on deaf ears given that the land commission is yet to be moved by incessant blockages by angry land owners along the corridor.
He noted in the letter seen by The Standard that considering there has been a delay in acquisition of land, the delays by the commission will derail the project from meeting its June 2019 completion date target.
“The corporation is concerned that the wrangles and confusion at the commission are also contributing to the delay in releasing of funds to the PAPs. This is going to affect the project negatively,” Kenya Railways writes.
“This is therefore to request you to disburse the amounts to the PAPs without any further delay to enable us hand over the corridor to the contractor,” Mr Maingi writes in his latest letter to the commission.
Sources familiar with the happenings at the commission say the stalemate has been caused by infighting between two camps at the NLC, one aligned to the NLC Chairman Mohammed Swazuri and the other that owes allegiance to the NLC Vice chairperson Abigael Mbagaya.
At the centre of the fight that is causing Chinese contractors facing angry mobs at construction sites is greed, self-interest, turf wars and plain arrogance from some NLC officials whose term is soon coming to an end.