The National Police Service (NPS) and residents of Tigania, Meru, are at loggerheads over a piece of land which both are claiming ownership to.
Top officials of the Administration Police Leadership and Sports Centre (APLSC), which sits on a hill in Kirimancuma in Thangatha ward, and the local community cannot agree who owns the land.
This is after proposals were made to relocate the local primary school from a shared 10-acre tract to allow expansion of the tough-terrain training camp used as a base for training in the Nyambene Forest.
Proposals in various minutes of meetings between the local community and leadership of the APLSC show that the 10-acre compound of Kirimancuma Primary School hosts the two institutions as well as a health centre, the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) and the Full Gospel Church.
Last year, one proposal tabled by the APLSC, which was built in 2014, sought to have the land subdivided into four acres for the police camp, 0.15 acres each for the two churches and the rest retained by the primary school.
The primary school was then to be relocated 500 metres away and compensated with an equivalent parcel of land measuring 4.5 acres to be acquired compulsorily from the family of one Silas Kinyua.
George Kinyua, a son of the landowner; said they have since withdrawn the sale offer on the basis of the low purchase price offered.
The complaining residents claim there has been inadequate public consultations, and that the APLSC had declined to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) since 2014.
They also claim the APLSC had influenced the sacking of the last primary school board and had been carrying out negotiations with imposters.
“They never share documents with the school regarding the relocation plans and when we get those documents through other means, we find them full of contradictions,” claimed Joseph Ngulu who was in the sacked board.
APLSC Commanding Officer Rem Mutabari, however, dismissed the dispute as too much about nothing blaming “a few serial complainants against a noble government project.”
“Their interest is not necessarily that of the school or the community. They have contradicted every government officer on the ground and made over 50 complaints against me since last year," said Mutabari. "The truth is that this dispute is grounded on a historical grievance about the school land."
Other residents of the area claim there has been coercion to approve the relocation through threats and intimidation.
On February 3, 2021, Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Administration Police, Noor Gabow, wrote to the CEO of the National Lands Commission (NLC) to help unlock the impasse.
“The (AP) service will seek for resources to build the new school and support its future operations. We have identified suitable land to host the primary school and already undertaken structural and architectural planning,” he wrote.
A March 2021 NLC report showed the APLSC planned to offer specialised courses such as drone training and needed to expand the existing location of the primary school as a landing site.
It recommended relocation of the primary school, saying expansion of the APLSC and introduction of new courses would pose difficulties in sharing the same compound.
But residents said they were angered by one specific recommendation on the title held in trust by the Meru county government that said:
“The current registration status of the land shows it is reserved for Kirimancuma School, (and) it is not clear whether it is reserved for the primary school or for the APLSC or the two were supposed to coexist and co-own the land.”
The APLSC commandant said their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects undertaken in the area including a health centre, a borehole and the Kamithega Secondary School, stood for themselves.