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Court blocks county’s Sh43m demand from Kenya Airports Authority

By Kamau Muthoni | July 15th 2016
By Kamau Muthoni | July 15th 2016

Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has won a protracted legal battle against Kwale county government over Sh43 million land rates involving Ukunda Airstrip.

High Court judge Anyara Emukule barred the county from demanding the money, noting that the land where the strip lies is exempted from rates.

Justice Emukule noted that the Constitution dictates that policies imposed by county authorities should not in turn affect the activities of the national government. “There is no doubt that in terms of Article 209(5) of the Constitution, the respondent (Kwale) has authority to impose rates. Article 209(5) limits the imposition that such taxes do not prejudice the economic policies and activities of the national government.”

“Those policies as enacted in Rule 4 of the Valuation for Rates (Public Land) Rules, exempt the Applicant from payment of rates. The Demand Notice for rates of Sh 43,221,310 is therefore illegal,” the judge ruled. The Ukunda airstrip is used to operate the country’s aerodromes, and the judge noted that they were vital to both domestic and international travel.

“The land upon which its facilities are erected shall not be subject to payment of land rates,” he noted, adding that an airport or airstrip was within national agencies, which are not required to pay taxes.

Violation of rules

The county issued a notice on September 6 last year to KAA demanding that it should pay Sh796,200 as arrears. In addition, the authority was also required to pay Sh29,485,910 as an accumulated penalty and further Sh12,739,200 for Diani Beach plot.

But KAA lamented that slapping it with rates notice was in violation of the public land rules. Judge Emukule agreed with the argument.

“Consequently, agencies enjoy the same or similar privileges as the national government would itself enjoy. The establishment and running of aerodromes, ports and similar activities, is made through economic policies and activities which are beneficial to both the national and county governments,” he said.

Kwale in its reply claimed that the land in question did not belong to the corporation.

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