Puzzle of outsiders in Nairobi county urban planning technical committee

Nairobi City County Assembly in session on May 4, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

It has now emerged that outsiders have been illegally sitting in the crucial Nairobi County Government’s Urban Planning Technical Committee.

It is against this backdrop that the county Assembly Planning Committee on Wednesday disbanded the technical committee citing outcry from residents and illegal approvals in the city.

The 12-member Nairobi City County Urban Planning Technical Committee (UPTC) was unveiled by Governor Johnson Sakaja in 2022.

The UPTC's mandate was to facilitate the evaluation and consideration of applications for development permission submitted to the planning authority.

The technical committee comprising professionals was under acting Assistant Director of Planning, Fred Ochanda, who was on May 3, 2024, whisked by EACC for questioning.

However, during the grilling by the Assembly Planning Committee chaired by Alvin Olando on May 8, it emerged that two other people from the executive were allowed to sit in the technical committee.

The two mentioned during the sitting were Chief of Staff David Njoroge and Osman Kahlif said to be Governor Sakaja’s aide.

County Executive Member for Lands Stephen Mwangi told the MCAs that the two had the blessings of the governor to sit in the technical committee. 

“In legal terms, they are not supposed to sit in that committee but when it comes to the current situation they have the blessings of the governor's office,” Mwangi told the committee.

This was after the planning chair Olando sought to know why the two outsiders were allowed to sit in the crucial technical committee.

Baba dogo MCA Geoffrey Majiwa sought to know why some approvals were done in Riverside, a private office linked to the executive, away from City Hall.

In response, the Lands CEC said: “We believe the governor has a legal advisor who should advise him on legal matters so that he should know whatever he is doing is within the law,”

He told the committee that in March 2024, a meeting was held in the Riverside office where 154 approvals were discussed of which 131 were approved.

Recently elected UDA Members of Parliament and Ward Reps raised concerns over unplanned construction in the city.

They singled out high-rise buildings claiming that pockets of some individuals at City Hall are greased either with cash or rewarded with apartments and commercial space in the structures.

This came after Governor Sakaja was challenged over his remarks that high-rise buildings will now be constructed in Kileleshwa, Lavington, and Eastleigh among other areas.

“25 floors was area specific (around the airbase) and not a blanket restriction. We have proposed an area-specific zoning framework that goes up to 75 floors in some areas,” the governor said.