New system promises to get rid of land grabbers, brokers

President Uhuru Kenyatta tours the National Geospatial Data Centre in Nairobi County during the launch of the National Land Information Management System (NLIMS). [PSCU, Standard]

The era of missing files, misplaced title deeds and disinheritance by total strangers is poised to end, following the migration of all land ownership documents to the digital system.

Also to be uprooted are land brokers and secret barons who own huge swathes of land through proxies. At the click of a mouse, or swiping on a smartphone, an agent can link all pieces of land owned by an individual as well as all the other assets the person may have.

Yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched a new system that promises to bring integrity in the management of land in Kenya.

The National Land Information Management System (NLIMS) known as ArdhiSasa, which has been in the works since 2018, was launched at the National Geospatial Data Centre at the Survey of Kenya.

The digital system has been billed as the solution to land fraud, the punishing queues and long waits that people seeking land services in Nairobi are subjected to.

The rollout of the system, which comes in use in Nairobi, marks the end of manual land transactions in the city.

It also closes the door to the underhand dealings at Ardhi House, which left legitimate landowners dispossessed by land-stealing cartels.

ArdhiSasa provides an updated and easily accessible database of land records.

From their mobile phones, users will be able to determine the ownership of a parcel and even initiate a transfer.

President Kenyatta called the system a critical milestone in land management and the most consequential step in 60 years towards addressing the land question.

“Independence alone did not fully resolve the problem in Kenya and every post-independence administration has had to face these elements of evolving land issues.

“Citizens will now be able to carry out critical land transactions online, drastically reducing human interactions, delays and all other inconveniences that Kenyans have had to endure in our land registries,” said the president.

It will also secure innocent Kenyans from exploitation by cartels, middlemen and fraudsters.

“With the advent of ArdhiSasa, the issue of missing files, perennial fraud, corruption and illegal land transactions will be a matter of the past,” Uhuru said.

He, however, said there was still a journey to be travelled.

“Many Kenyans have gone through the agony of buying land that has been sold to someone else or discovering their title deed has been given to someone else. We have started a journey to clean those records,” Uhuru said.

The president, pre-empting public scepticism about the new system, called on the public to embrace the new way of doing things. 

“I’d like to implore Kenyans, because I know many of you will log into the system to check the status of your land, to look for the Ministry and solve those problems so that you can be certain that your title deed is legitimate,” he said.

In effect, he said, the new system will exorcise the demons that haunted Ardhi House.

“Don’t be afraid because this is the only way we can undo all the evil that has been done at Ardhi House for all these years,” Uhuru said.

The system also hands investigative agencies data that can be used to prosecute corruption cases.

With its integration with other systems such as Huduma Namba, county governments revenue system, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and investigative agencies, investing illegally acquired wealth in property will be harder.

The linkages with the county governments systems will also have a bearing on the amount of money the counties collect from land rates.

It also carries the potential of exposing any loopholes that can be exploited to drain the county coffers of land rates.

“In addition, it will assist judicial processes and provide investigative agencies like Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), DCI as well as DPP with accurate and easily examinable data that they curb fraud in the land sector,” Uhuru said.

Lands Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney said the system that was being used to perform land transactions had been discarded.

“For decades, the land sector has been plagued by corruption, fraud and illegal transactions, making land acquisition a very burdensome exercise,” Karoney said.

She revealed that the system had been in the making for 26 years, from 1995, with no success. She said it will offer a one-stop-shop for land information.

“This platform will transform the way Kenyans transact in land and property, it is also expected to boost the ongoing national titling program, therefore, securing rights to land and property,” Karoney said.

The platform will be rolled out in 20 counties by the end of the year and to all counties by the end of 2022.

“Half of the people who come to the Ministry of Lands offices are there just for a search to confirm ownership or start the process of transfer or sale of their property,” Lands PS Nicholas Muraguri said.

The lands registry in Nairobi expects significantly fewer people in their queues as services such as search will now be exclusively done online.

Other services that move online include the transfer of ownership, issuance of consent, valuation requests, payment and issuance of land rent clearance certificate.

Payments of stamp duty, registration fees, consent fees, application and withdrawal of caution/caveats/restrictions, registration of land documents and searches (Nairobi and Central Registries) have also been digitised.

Some of the challenges that the ministry is hoping to do away with include the perennial issue of the missing files, an excuse that has been used to frustrate landowners.

The ministry is touting the system as the single source of truth on all land matters.

Moreover, Karoney said yesterday, double registration of land parcels and overlapping of parcels will be a thing of the past.

In Nairobi, Ardhi House has digitised 240,000 parcels of land.

ArdhiSasa will also help the government to notice encroachment on public land and land grabbing.

“Public land has now been separated from private land and all public land in Nairobi has been indexed, documented and safeguarded for public use,” said Karoney.

Away from solving fraud, Uhuru said the full rollout of the system will facilitate the resolution of historical land disputes and guarantee the security of title deeds.

The team has also developed Kenya’s first digital topographical map, a cadastre with the Nairobi City Council.

“The development of a cadastre also allows the Ministry of Lands to start the process of migration to a unitary regime of land registration to curb fraud and cut transaction time,” said the president.

Ardhi House is also converting title deeds issued under now-repealed laws and to new ones to comply with a new law passed in 2012.

The enactment of the Land Registration Act repealed all other land registration statutes such as the Indian Transfer of Property Act 1882, the Government Lands Act (Cap. 280), the Registration of Titles Act (Cap. 281), the Land Titles Act (Cap. 282) and the Registered Land Act (Cap. 300).

Uhuru said there was still work to be done to streamline land reforms.

“It will be rolled out to the rest of the country in a phased and gradual manner as they take in feedback from the users of the new system in Nairobi.