Kenya Railways and NLC battle over SGR billions

An SGR cargo train transports containers from Mombasa to Nairobi. [File, Standard]
Kenya Railways has moved to court seeking an order to force the National Land Commission (NLC) to release money meant for land owners in an embarrassing legal battle pitting two state agencies against each other. 

Through, Muriu Mungai & Company advocates, the Railway corporation wants an intervention against the Mohamed Swazuri-led commission, accusing it of sitting on billions at the expense of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project.

If the legal battle runs its course, it will embarrass the government given that it will be one agency taking another government agency to court at the expense of taxpayer’s money.

According to the application papers filed on Friday, the corporation says it wants to be granted leave to apply for an Order of Mandamus against the NLC, to compensate the project affected persons Sh17.7 billion.

A mandamus is a command to a person to perform a public or statutory duty.

The suit comes days after NLC released Sh4 billion, as part of compensation billions as land owners suffer in silence.

A number of land owners vacated their premises on a promise of compensation under the early entry programme. Some rented new premises after their houses were demolished to allow the contractor start work.

Supporting documents

But they have been forced to endure a painful two year wait that first started with a promise of pay before going through two audits only for the NLC to continue their wait by sitting on their compensation billions.

NLC, which acknowledges receipt of Sh10.2 billion from Kenya Railways for landowners along the corridor from Rongai, Ngong to Mai Mahiu including the Suswa station, says the delays have been caused by lack of supporting documentation.

The commission says it has verified all supporting documents received relating to compensation claims for the project and had released payment of Sh4 billion.

“A special team has been formed to fast rack 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 Sh7billion sitting in its accounts. 

Four letters from Kenya Railways have fallen over deaf ears    

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 the months of 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 October 25, 2018 and December 6, 2018.

The stalemate at the commission has been exacerbated by infighting between two camps at the NLC, one aligned to the NLC Chairman Mohamed Swazuri and the other that owes allegiance to his deputy Abigael Mbagaya.

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Kenya RailwaysSGRNational Land CommissionStandard Gauge Railway