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Riddle of 30,000 titles released in just four days and 600 that took 27 years

By KIBIWOTT KOROSS | November 16th 2013


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While commissioning a water project in August 10 in Kinango constituency, Deputy President William Ruto promised the locals that the government was to issue them with title deeds in two weeks.

The Deputy President told the elated crowd that the Jubilee government would resolve all land problems in Kenya before their five years in office elapse.

“We have instructed the Ministry of Lands to issue title deeds to those whose land ownership is uncontested and we plan on issuing three million in five years so you can get down to business,” he said.

A week earlier, Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, had been instructed to issue title deeds to those whose land ownership is uncontested at the Coast.

Of particular concern was Malindi and Kilifi where residents had complained for long against non-issuance of titles and land grabbing.

With the president’s directive, Ngilu headed back to Ardhi House and demanded the number of title deeds from the Coast that were available. She was told there were only 600 land titles processed in since 1986.

Map sheets

“She had walked straight to the Lands ministry after a Cabinet meeting,” said an officer at the Lands ministry who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation at the office.

“Ngilu shook her head and called an emergency meeting with all heads of departments including Lands Commissioner Zablon Mabea and Director of Survey Erastus Murage,” says the officer.

The CS sought to know why there were no titles and what the officers were doing in office if they could only process 600 titles in that period.

Ngilu initiated an investigation that established that more than 100,000 titles were waiting to be processed and lay between the Survey and Settlement office.

A furious Ngilu was told the process had delayed at the survey office and she confronted Murage.

“Murage had delayed the preparation of survey maps which would have allowed the issuance of titles,” the officer said.

The process, under normal circumstances, would have taken two months. It is alleged that the delay was occasioned strategically to give room for falsification of documents of land ownership by lands officials.

Murage, according to the source who was in the meeting, was asked to explain what had caused the delay and he kept quiet prompting Ngilu to ask; “Do you want me to go and tell the President that there are only 600 titles to be issued next week?”

The CS, under pressure from Uhuru and Ruto, who were eager to achieve their campaign pledge, asked Murage what he needed to fast track the processing of the titles.

The team presented a budget of Sh80 million, but Ngilu said she could not present it to the Cabinet and asked them to source money from within.

Murage was ordered by Ngilu to do all he could to ensure the survey maps were forwarded to registrar’s office in the shortest time possible.

As this went on, the government was already planning rallies at the Coast where the titles would be issued.

Two days later Murage ordered 100 survey officers to converge at the Survey Headquarters in Ruaraka. Four days later 30,000 titles were ready.

After this, Murage was moved to the Ministry of Mining and his deputy Boaz Owino, transferred to the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

Interviewed for this story, Murage gave a contrasting account of events. Murage said he was not to blame because as a director he had done his job and prepared survey maps a long time ago.

“That is why the work was done in four days. I cleared my part and it was the Lands Adjudication office that was delaying.”

Admitting that he had ensured that 30,000 map sheets were processed in four days, he said the ministry should have recognised his efforts instead of hounding him out of office. He said his office prepares map sheets on demand. He could not, however, say why they had not been processed before.

Murage, who said he has been at the ministry for more than three decades, said he was not opposed to his transfer to the ministry of Mining but the manner in which it was effected.

“I did my job and my removal was so painful. The Cabinet secretary did not even give me time to hand over… as we speak, my coat is still at the Lands office. I was handed over my transfer letter on Friday and had to report to my work station on Monday, so I haven’t stepped in Ardhi House since then. I won’t work in that department again”

He denied allegations that his office was technically delaying the issuance of the map sheets and instead linked his removal to Sh1 billion which he says had been released by the Treasury to the survey department.

Caesar Mbaria, who was senior assistant director of survey, replaced Murage and Julius Rotich, who has been in the Lands Registry, took over from Owino. Murage handed over to Mbaria.

Ngilu said she did not influence the transfer of the two officers.

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