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County Commissioner orders arrest of fake squatters invading land

The  Nakuru County Commissioner (CC), Erastus  Mbui  Mwenda has ordered the arrest of bogus squatters who prey on land set aside for construction of public projects within the devolved unit.

Mwenda  expressed concern that an increasing number of fake squatters usually led by a “headman” have resorted to invading state or privately owned land in the region earmarked for multi-million projects such as dams, roads, factories and power generating plants with the aim of being compensated by the National Land Commission (NLC).

The  administrator spoke when the Nakuru County Development Implementation Coordination Committee (CDICC) which he Chairs  issued a seven day quit notice to 47 families that have swamped the geothermal exploration fields belonging to the Centum-owned renewable energy company, AKIIRA, in Naivasha.

“The  CDICC has taken note of a trend where individuals erect temporary structures on land meant for mega projects and wait for compensation. They insist the land belongs to their ancestors. All these families here do not have land ownership documents for the chunks they are occupying and their identification documents prove that they are not locals,” the administrator said.

Some fake squatters in this county have resorted to seeking court orders and enlisting lobby groups in moves aimed at restraining implementers of mega projects from developing invaded land. “Nevertheless, both the government and genuine private land owners have always prevailed in such civil suits touching on irregularly occupied land,” said Mwenda.

Also  present  were, Richard  Tuta from the Presidential Delivery Unit and all County Departmental heads and representatives of State corporations.

The  AKIIRA Geothermal Limited (AGL) spokesman, Anthony Kahindi said the invasions were frustrating the firm’s exploratory drilling near the geothermal-rich Olkaria as it seeks to develop its 70-megawatt project in Naivasha.

The  power project based in AKIIRA  Valley in Naivasha is the first phase of the development of a 140-megawatt geothermal plant.

The  Centum subsidiary signed a power purchase agreement with Kenya Power in August 2015.

It  completed drilling two exploration wells and proved the existence of the geothermal resource in December 2015.

The  Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm created the investment vehicle in 2013 to spearhead its venture into the local and regional power sector as the firm sought to diversify its business.

Kahindi said the company expects to finalize the preparation of the engineering, procurement and construction contract and operation and maintenance contracts by end of next year.

“It is anticipated that AGL will commence production drilling and power plant construction for the first phase 70 megawatts in early 2020 and achieve commercial operation in early 2022,” he said.

Kahindi further noted that a section of human rights organizations and lobbies were frustrating the projects progress through scientifically unfounded reports and malicious allegations.

Last  week, the European Investment Bank (EIB) cancelled a Sh.19.5 billion loan offer to AKIIRA Geothermal Limited over viability and environmental concerns raised by lobbies.

The  EIB Deputy Head of Division, Joan Manuel Sterlin Balenciaga, however, said in communiqué “The EIB has taken all the allegations extremely seriously and will make every effort to ensure that EIB’s environmental and social standards are respected throughout its projects.”

Kahindi  maintained that despite the claims, neither social nor environmental concerns had been brought to the firm’s attention as a result of its exploratory drilling activity. He said AKIIRA will continue to work closely with the local community to address social and environmental matters to the benefit of both parties.

“Akiira has an effective Stakeholder Engagement Plan and Environmental Management Plan to ensure participatory consultation with all stakeholders. We have been lauded by international environmental and social consultants as a role model for stakeholder engagement and management. We have not encountered any challenges to date,” said Kahindi.

“Geothermal  energy is a renewable energy source and one of the most environmentally friendly forms of energy. Indeed, geothermal energy is a key pillar in Kenya’s quest to add power capacity to the national grid due to its environmentally friendly nature and affordability,” he stated.

In  respect of the second 70 megawatts phase, Kahindi said the firm anticipates that it would simultaneously start the exploratory studies and drilling aiming to deliver the second phase of the project by 2024.

AKIIRA Geothermal’s shareholders, include Mvuke Power Ltd (owned by Centum Investment Company), Marine Power Generation Ltd, DI Frontier Energy Carbon Fund (a Danish Power Fund) and Ram Energy Inc.

Kahindi  said as a clear show of commitment, the shareholders have to date invested more than $30million (about Sh.3billion) to fund project development.

“Additionally, the project has received significant global attention and has secured the support of US development agencies and the African Union through milestone grant funding,” he said.

“It is anticipated that AGL will commence production drilling and power plant construction for the first phase 70 megawatts in early 2020 and achieve commercial operation in early 2022,” he said.

The Centum consortium was expected to contribute Sh.11.7 billion or 30 per cent of the project’s cost of Sh.39 billion while the rest would be funded through commercial loans.

By  Anne  Mwale