State not keen to demolish Langata houses

The government has admitted that former Cabinet minister Francis Lotodo irregularly degazetted part of Ngong Forest that paved the way for grabbing by private investors.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko (pictured) yesterday told MPs that Bahati MP Onesmus Ngunjiri was among the beneficiaries of the illegal acquisition of the 53.6 hectares of forest land.

He made the revelation as he appeared to soften his position on plans to demolish the multi-billion investments in Nairobi’s Langata area, adding that the ministry was ready to engage the at least 20,000 affected families to resolve the dispute.

“It is not my intention to demolish the houses. If this committee can mediate on this issue so that we resolve it once and for all. We need to sit and come up with a win-win solution,” Tobiko told members of National Assembly departmental committee on Environment and National Resources.

“The law allows Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to issue leasehold for up to 50 years. It is upon those affected to come out and say let’s talk and we negotiate the new terms,” he added.

In the House’s Hansard report of April 28, 1998, tabled by the ministry, it emerged that Lotodo informed the members of the government decision to degazette the parcel for social amenity use.

The records indicate that the then Kimilili MP Mukhisa Kituyi sought a response from Lotodo on why the government was degazetting part of the forest.

In his response, the minister told the House that the excised parcel was to be used for social amenity, specifically to put up a school.

“The minister for Natural Resources issued legal Notice No 44 on April 3, 1998 following a government decision that the said land would be used for social amenities,” reads the Hansard.

“In this connection, the laid down government de-gazettement procedures, as stipulated in the Forests Act, Chapter 385, were followed,” added Lotodo.

But Tobiko told the Kareke Mbiuki-led team that the process was irregular as titles had been issued to private investors way before the gazette notice.

He maintained that any protected forest can only be gazetted for public use but not for private investments.

He disclosed that Langata Women’s Prison land, which was originally 34 acres and was reserved for Nairobi Prison, was illegally and fraudulently allocated to three entities.

He listed Arldyks Investment Ltd, Prilscot Company Ltd and Ngunjiri (Bahati MP) as the three beneficiaries of the prison’s land.

The three, he told the committee, subsequently subdivided the parcel and sold them out to third parties, giving rise to KMA, Sunvalley 1, Langata Gardens, Langata View and Shallom Estates. The same parcel was further used to put up St Mary’s Hospital.

“Similarly, the estate commonly known as Forest Edge/View Estate lying between the Dog Section and the Southern Bypass was illegally and fraudulently established within the un-degazetted portion of Ngong Road Forest Reserve,” said Tobiko.

Records indicate that the original beneficiaries of the allocations were 207 entities.

“As would be evident from the above list, a number of the illegal beneficiaries were companies, business names/firms, no doubt intended to conceal the true identities of the individuals behind them and the real beneficiaries of the illegal allocations,” Tobiko said.

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