The Nakuru County government is seeking to repossess all public utilities alienated by past civic leaders and other prominent personalities.
The devolved unit’s administration has disclosed that it is teaming up with National Land Commission (NLC) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to recover grabbed public land and assets valued at billions of shillings.
County Executive Committee Member (CECM) in charge of Lands, Housing and Physical Planning Mr John Kihagi asked those with title deeds of grabbed land to surrender them adding that the department has embarked on valuation of the devolved unit’s assets.
“We are appealing to anyone in possession of public assets to voluntarily surrender them,” he said.
Those clinging on such land ownership documents are wasting time because the titles will be revoked anyway after the ongoing review,” warned the CECM.
Mr Kihagi said that the illegal allocation of public land had made it difficult for any meaningful development to take place and that Governor Susan Kihika’s administration’s efforts to fight land grabbers were not personal.
“When public assets are in the wrong hands the county government ends up spending more resources in order to deliver services to residents. We appeal to all residents with information on any illegally acquired public utility to volunteer it to us for immediate action,” he said.
The County Assets Management team is currently inspecting various public utilities in the county and has sent out a public appeal to members of the public who may be aware of any public land or buildings held by individuals to share the details with the county government.
Through collaboration with EACC, public assets within the devolved unit valued at over Shs 266 million have been recovered through an asset tracing program that took two years.
The recovered properties include 27 public officers’ residences at the Nakuru Municipality valued at a total of Ksh 74.2 million as well as another parcel of land which had been reserved for a Survey Camp by the Department of Survey in Nakuru County valued at Ksh 42 million.
EACC also recovered another piece of property on Nakuru Municipality Block belonging to the Postal Corporation which was allocated to a former Member of Parliament through an irregular alienation process and is estimated to be worth Ksh 150 million.
Mr Kihagi said the County administration had also opened a new chapter in recovering illegally acquired property through structured negotiation.
He added that there was a need for decisive action to banish the bad culture of land-grabbing.
“We will ensure that economic activities in the county are not grounded by repossessing public land. We cannot allow developers to benefit at the expense of many unemployed youths. We will continue to face these individuals and recover the land,” he affirmed.
County assets manager Mr Elijah Mogoi indicated that the devolved unit will in the next financial year install an information technology system that will capture all the particulars of county assets.
Earlier this year the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission won the first round in a court battle in which the anti-graft body is seeking to recover 435 acres of land in Naivasha belonging to Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
The land was allegedly grabbed by two private companies- Pineapple Edge Limited and Trojan Nominees Limited. The two firms lost the bid to block the EACC from recovering the land.
Nakuru Environment and Land Court Judge Anthony Ombwayo dismissed an application by Pineapple Edge Limited (PEL) Company, seeking to stop EACC from prosecuting the case.
The company filed an objection after EACC sued it and Trojan Nominees Limited, claiming the process the companies used to acquire the land in Naivasha, Nakuru County was illegal.
In its objection filed in court, however, the company said the suit was time-barred and should be struck out claiming it acquired the property in 1997.
The firm claimed that since KALRO never took any action against them for over 12 years, they should be allowed to own the land.
However, Justice Ombwayo ruled that the suit is not time-barred since it revolves around alleged fraud on public land and therefore time starts running when fraud is discovered.
“The defendant (PEL) has not proven that EACC discovered fraud more than 12 years before filing the case in court, therefore the case by EACC must proceed to a full hearing,” ruled the judge.
He dismissed the objection and ordered the case to proceed to a full hearing.
The multi-million land case is pitting the EACC, the former Commissioner of Lands and two private companies-Pineapple Edge Limited and Trojan Nominees Limited.
In June 2022, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) began the process of recovering the land it says belongs to the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) in Naivasha.
The commission instituted proceedings at the Environment and Land Court in Nakuru seeking to recover the expansive land, initially used for research by the government agency, but was hived off and allocated to private developers.
In the suit, the anti-graft body says that the land in Naivasha, which houses various government institutions, was illegally allocated to Pineapples Edge Limited and Trojan Nominees Limited.
EACC has also sued the former Commissioner of Lands Wilson Gachanja, alongside the former Chief Land Registrar.
The commission says the parties conspired to fraudulently acquire the public land.
The anti-graft body accuses Mr Gachanja of fraudulently making an offer and granting government land to private companies, while aware that it had been reserved for use by KARLO.
By Jane Ngugi