Governors’ shock as new team suspends public land deals

National Land Commission Chairman Mohammed Swazuri. The commission has said it has received several complaints about illegal land deals being executed by Government officials. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

By Jackson Okoth and Nicholas Waitathu

Kenya: Conmen, brokers and unregistered land agents are fraudulently disposing of public land across the country.

As a result, the new National Land Commission has issued a directive suspending all occupation, transfer, allocation or conversion of public land.

“It has come to the commission’s attention that some offices, officers and authorities are disposing of public land without either informing or consulting us,” said Dr Mohammed Swazuri, the chairman of the commission.

 “No public officer has the authority to dispose any parcel of land without the commission’s approval. We have initiated the process to formulate the regulations to guide the process.”

But sources privy to the details say the directive is specifically targeted at Governors, most of whom have been betting on public land to lure investors to their counties.

In what lends credence to the argument, the notice is directed to all Governors, County Commissioners, District Commissioners, land officers and other public agencies and State corporations.

The commission says the suspension will remain in force until all consultations are done and further guidelines in place.

The directive further cautions the public against purchasing any parcels of public land, saying any documents issued in such deals will not be accepted by the commission.

Swazuri added that his office has already received several complaints about illegal land deals being executed by Government officers.

In January 2012, the Cabinet froze all transactions on public land, including new grants and renewal of leases until a National Land Commission is established.

Even though the directive appears designed to protect public land and assets, there are fears that uncertainty around it will hurt business in counties.

“The commission should move fast and develop the much-needed guidelines because counties will not just wait indefinitely,” Bungoma County Governor Kenneth Lusaka said, adding that unnecessary bureaucracy would stifle investment in the devolved units.

Despite ongoing reforms, land remains a magnet for high end corruption.

Last week, Land Development and Governance Institute Chairman Ibrahim Mwathane called for the arrest of unregistered land agents and corrupt officers in the Lands offices.

“We wish to caution Kenyans to be aware of the many brokers hanging around Lands offices, passing themselves off as available and able to fast-track services within the offices at a fee,” he told a public forum in Kiambu.

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