Land grabbing chokes Thika town

A man erects a warning notice on a prime land parcel that was on the verge of being grabbed at section 9 Estate within Thika town. [Kamau Njoroge, Standard]

Cases of land grabbing in Thika town constituency have reached alarming levels causing outcry from residents. Public utilities including parcels set aside for schools, police posts, hospitals, social halls, recreational facilities and land belonging to squatters have been the major target for the notorious grabbers.

The disreputable grabbers have been working together with corrupt officials at the county and the Lands Ministry to forge land ownership documents before defrauding innocent locals of their land parcels. In what seems to be a growing appetite for public land, notorious land grabbers in the region are leaving nothing to chance to satisfy their greed. Locals recently thwarted an attempt to grab a section of cemetery land in Thika town.

Township MCA Andrew Kimani said on Wednesday that the unscrupulous grabbers had already grabbed 60 acres of public land in Ngoingwa area. He said that residents put up a spirited fight with the help of the National Land Commission (NLC) and managed to recover more than 40 acres. “They are individuals with deep pockets and have connections and that’s why they managed to process fake land ownership documents. but we are unwavering and we have fought them back and managed to recover some 40 acres that will be issued with title deeds soon,” the ward rep said. “Again, we will leave nothing to chance until we ensure all public land in the hands of corrupt individuals is returned to the community,” he added.

Kimani also disclosed that the notorious grabbers have already grabbed and sub-divided a five-acre piece of land meant for the expansion of the Thika Water and Sewerage Company’s water treatment plant in Thika town. The MCA said that he has already lodged a complaint with NLC over the land adding that action will be soon taken to reclaim the land.

Unsuspecting buyers

“They have subdivided the land into 50x100 and 100x100 plots and sold it to unsuspecting investors. They know the land is a public utility and haven’t developed it. We will mobilize residents to go and reclaim it,” he said. Thika town MP Eng Patrick Wainaina has already written to Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney requesting a land clinic over the escalating cases of land grabbing and disputes in the region.

The MP in the letter noted that there have been ownership disputes and unending conflicts over land matters especially in Kisii, Kiganjo, Kiangombe, Makongeni, landless, Riverside, Salama and Gatuanyaga areas within the constituency.

“There has been increasing complaints from residents on grabbing of public land in many parts of the constituency. We believe the proposed land clinic will assist to assess the ownership of diverse parcels of land with disputes as well as determine ownership of public land in all the affected areas,” Wainaina says in the letter.

The MP also noted with concern the high number of land buying and selling companies in the region which have been in operations for decades without issuing their members with the requisite ownership documents. He said the land buying firms are the reason for the many cases of multiple allocations of land parcels that have resulted to disputes and prolonged court cases.

“There are numerous land buying companies taking advantage of innocent members of the public to defraud them on land-related matters and we believe the land clinic will offer a sound solution to this mess,” reads part of the letter. The MP is also requesting for swift digitization of the Thika lands registry so as to streamline its operations including enhancing speedy land searches to determine ownership status. “Members of the public have been complaining of loss of land green cards at the Thika lands registry leading to delays in land searches,” Wainaina says in the letter.