Church accuses Lands agency staff of Sh200 million bribe demand

Workers at the entrance of the SGR tunnel at Ngong, Kajiado County. [File, Standard]
A church has accused officials of the besieged National Land Commission (NLC) of asking for a Sh200 million bribe before processing their compensation money for a parcel of land surrendered for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

In an explosive letter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the church has filed an official complaint against top NLC officials, accusing them of abuse of office, blackmail, intimidation, threats, false representation and frustrating compensation payment to solicit undue funds.

The letter from the church is accompanied by an audio recording in which some of the allegations touching on a middle man allegedly sent to negotiate the bribe money, is captured.

Compulsory acquisition

NLC said it could not comment on the matter because it had not been officially brought to its attention.

“The letter was addressed to the DCI and it has not officially been brought to our attention. When this happens then we will be in a position to react,” NLC Director of Communication Khalid Salim told Saturday Standard on phone.

He also said the recording in question was not of staff from the commission and he could not comment on it.

Bishop Joel Chola, the executive director at the Clarence Matheny Leadership Training Institute based in Ongata Rongai, says in the letter that his organisation is the owner of the land in Ngong, which lies squarely on the SGR corridor phase 2A.

“We were informed formally of the compulsory acquisition on November 10, 2017 by Kenya Railways managing director and also by an NLC letter dated Jan 3, 2018 and subsequent gazzette notice on March 2, 2018. We obliged to the acquisition and promised to support the national project to the full,” he narrates.

Bishop Chola says his church employed professional valuers in July 2017 and a legal firm to advise and guide the process of compulsory acquisition. They were formally requested on January 3, 2018 to allow the Chinese construction company begin building pillars on their property, since their land would house the super bridge that contained 17 pillars.

“We agreed and work began on our property,” he narrates.

His institution filed a formal application for compensation in February last year from the NLC at a meeting where several officials were present, including its lawyer and a surveyor from Kenya Railways.    

He would later meet a man, who introduced himself as the personal assistant to a top NLC official.

“I was in the company of the institution’s officials, my colleagues and our lawyer,” Bishop Chola adds.

“The man was present through-out the meeting and after that he took myself and our lawyer to a separate meeting at Fairview Hotel, where he basically told us very clearly that he had been sent to talk to us,” he adds.

Our attempts to reach the man were futile. He did not respond to our text messages and his phone was off yesterday.

Bishop Chola says the man threatened that they would not be given their compensation unless they were willing to sign an agreement to pay his company some consultation fees.

The recording suggests that a man in the meeting was saying no one in government could help them, including the head of state.

Reduced package

The institution would later make its claim on April 10 after which they were asked to wait for their award.

Bishop Chola claims that about eight days later, the man called him to Yaya Centre where he showed him their award for compensation but told him it will not be given to them until they were willing to sign an agreement to give them Sh200 million.

“I declined. We were then called the next day and taken to the NLC office, where we were told that our award had been withdrawn,” Bishop Chola adds.

It is at this time that he called an official from President’s Delivery Unit (PDU) and told him of their frustrations at NLC.

Bishop Chola would later go back to NLC where he was given a copy of their award letter for their parcel valued at Sh914 million. But in May, they would later be contacted and told the amount had been revised downwards from Sh200 million to Sh140 million.

“The conversation was coded where he referred to it as 14 lessos,” the Bishop added.

These allegations come at a time when Kenya Railways has moved to court seeking an order to force the NLC to release money meant for land owners in an embarrassing legal battle pitting two state agencies working against each other. 

Through, Muriu, Mungai & Company advocates, the railway corporation agency wants an intervention against the lands commission, accusing it of sitting on billions at the expense of the SGR project.

According to the application papers filed on Friday, the corporation says it wants NLC compelled to compensate the project affected persons Sh17.7 billion.

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National Land CommissionNLCStandard Gauge RailwayDirectorate of Criminal InvestigationsCorruption