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Protect city property owners against fraudsters

OPINION
By Dennis Waweru | May 31st 2015

A discreet conspiracy to defraud city investors of their investments is on the roll out and targeting old-time properties now being transferred to third generations.

Away from the media glare, families whose forefathers toiled to invest in properties in the city in pre-independence days are finding themselves dispossessed of their properties in the frenzy of dispossession condoned and promoted by top officials at the county government and Ministry of Lands.

The orgy of theft has now shifted from private properties through the “mradi-style” operations to society or welfare-owned properties whose leases are expiring or about to expire.

Most of the properties attracting interest of the dealers are those whose leases ran for 99 years most of which are now expiring.

To renew these leases owners are either parting with huge bribes or losing away the properties altogether.
Property ownership in the city has become a dicey affair.

One day you have the property to yourself the other day you do not have it. The mix of confusion, corruption, theft and uncertainty in the property sector of the city has a lot of implications as I will explain below.

One, condoning dispossessions emboldens the perpetrators and encourages them into more theft.

The question will now become where they will stop at, not if. Recent media reports showed that dispossessions had moved from Eastlands area of the city to border of State House itself. Two, dispossessions leave on their trail a lot of bitterness in the victims or victim groups.

They arouse deep-seated resentment towards authorities, towards the dispossessors, their associates and groups. They lead to violence, often killings, and societal strife.

Three, dispossessions impact negatively in the financial market sector. Banks do not know which title deeds are genuine or whether the properties they are holding as security against loans, have been overrun or displaced by new documents.

As we speak, many property owners in parts of the city are unable to obtain loans to develop their properties because of uncertainty of their otherwise genuine documents and on the basis of the location of their property.

Four, once dispossessions as the ones we are witnessing at the moment appear to have blessings of county officers, investors become apprehensive. And this includes both local and foreign investors. No one wants to invest today and lose their investments tomorrow at the strike of a pen.
They keep off and direct their investments to safer cities, counties or countries.

Five, dispossessions infringe on the very fundamental rights and freedoms which our Constitution protect. The right to ownership of property is protected under Article 40 of the Constitution. It is not a mistake that Article 40 falls under Chapter 4 of the Constitution’s bill of rights.

In fact, Article 40 does not merely grant the right to property or disallow dispossessions, it expressly forbids Parliament from enacting any law, which promotes arbitrary deprivation of property or limitation of enjoyment of one’s property.

Six, and more important is the lethargy it promotes among our all-important middle class who aspire to own properties in the city. The intrigues, the fraud, the speculation simply puts them off and they look to their villages instead.

Yet we rely on the ambition, the satisfaction and the passion of our middle class to run the economy. This is the sad picture obtaining in our city at the moment.

We need to stop it and restore our property sector back on its right track. We need to free our middle class and potential investors of their fears and apprehension in the property market.

The city county government should do more to protect all properties in Nairobi from illegal dispossessions. Still, priority should be placed on vulnerable groups of property owners; the aged, the disabled, youth, the sick, women and orphaned.

There should never be a case where owners lose their property and the city moves on. A single case of dispossession should invoke a crisis meeting at City Hall, as it should be indeed.

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