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Railways retirees cry foul as NLC holds on to Sh1.2b

NAIROBI
By Daniel Chege | April 22nd 2021
Peter Kariuki (centre), a Kenya Railways retiree, addresses the Press in Nakuru town on April 14 as other pensioners look on. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Peter Kariuki, 75, is a troubled man. He is a Kenya Railways retiree, but he stopped getting pension five months ago.

Nonetheless, he knew his trouble with money would end soon after the National Land Commission (NLC) acquired a parcel owned by the Kenya Railways Staff Retirement Benefits Scheme, of which he is a member, for the Nairobi Expressway project.

The government is supposed to pay them Sh7.9 billion as compensation for the 18 acres, and the National Treasury released the first batch of Sh1.2 billion to the NLC on February 23.

However, this money is yet to reach Kariuki's and his fellow pension scheme members' pockets, and they are wondering why.

“I cry for my children and grandchildren. I have had nothing to give them since November 2020 and the State is holding our compensation money since February,” says Kariuki.

He expected the compensation payment to cushion him and his family, especially during the tough economic times occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are hungry and angry. Some of us depend on medicine to survive but cannot even afford to put food on the table,” says Kariuki.

He pleads with President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and have the NLC release the money. 

“I am a pastor; I preach in hospitals and police stations within Nakuru but for charity. I fully depend on the pension and now the compensation money will be of help if released,” he says.

Kariuki says they were excluded from the Inua Jamii Senior Citizens' scheme, because they were getting pension.

Kenya Railways Workers Association National Secretary Joab Kidaha says they have been neglected by workers' unions, human rights defenders and the government.

Kidaha says the money being held by NLC was only an eighth of what they are expecting from the National Treasury.

“The State owes us about Sh7.9 billion for the land. The Sh1.2 billion is the first instalment for the land and it should be released,” he says.

Kariuki and Kidaha are among 8,000 pensioners nationwide aged between 60 and 80.

Kenya Railways Staff Retirement Benefits Scheme Trustee Henry Toili said the land was valued at Sh13.5 billion, but the government agreed to pay for it in tranches.

According to Toili, the NLC said they cannot release the money as they have no records for the ownership of the land.

“We were told that NLC cannot release the search certificates to enable the money to be remitted because our records are missing and they don’t know the owner of the land,” said Toili.

He questioned the criteria and records that were used to release the money from the Treasury to NLC.

He said the NLC should write a letter to Kenya Railways pension scheme and get the correct records on the ownership of the land.

Toili also protested the move by NLC to delay the payment for 60 days in order to reconstruct the property register.

In a Gazette notice No 2704 dated March 19, and titled Reconstruction of Lost or Destroyed Land Register, NLC says it lost the records for the land.

“Whereas Kenya Railways Corporation Staff Retirement Benefits Scheme is registered as proprietor of the land situated in Nairobi, the land register in respect thereof is lost or destroyed and efforts to locate the register have failed,” reads the notice.

The notice adds that after the expiration of 60 days, the registrar of titles will proceed to reconstruct the property register provided no objection will have been received.

With the notice, Toili is worried that if objections are raised, the rightful pensioners may have to wait longer for compensation.

“How difficult is it for NLC to confirm the correct records to Kenya Railways pension scheme,” he asked, adding that they cannot go to court because the matter will be prolonged further.

When he appeared before the Senate Committee of Labour and Social Welfare, NLC Chairman Gershom Otachi said the commission had finalised plans to remit the money.

He said once released, the money will be given to the pensioners.

When we reached out to him through text messages and phone calls to comment on the progress, Otachi did not respond.

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