How 87.9 hectares (217 acres) of land belonging to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was excised and allocated to firms and individuals is a mystery that has baffled the National Land Commission (NLC).
The commission is now preparing to revoke 119 titles that were illegally acquired as JKIA was regularising its ownership of the land where the airport sits, as well as after the region’s premier aviation hub acquired its title in 1996.
“There are two kinds of people we are dealing with: some inside the airport who got the titles just before JKIA got theirs, and others who were creating titles on top of the JKIA title,” NLC vice chairperson Abigael Mbagaya said.
Of the 87.9 hectares under review, 77.3 hectares were excised after 1996 after JKIA had its title, and only 10.6 hectares before then.
The NLC says the 119 titles are just a part of the illegal allocations on JKIA land. “Only those with available data (have been) included”, meaning hundreds others could be out there.
Some of the illegal allocations extend to the tarmac at JKIA, as well as the designated site for the planned second runway, and all are for 99-year leases.
For instance, the parcel of land (LR No. 9042/632) claimed by Hunting Aerospace has been identified to have been hived off, while LR Nos. 14231 and 13512, owned by two Syokimau land companies, sit right inside the proposed second runway at JKIA.
The real beneficiaries of the illegal excisions may never be known as most of the titles are in the names of shadowy companies and include notorious Syokimau firms, which have over the years been accused of land grabbing and defrauding buyers.
On November 22, the NLC summoned firms and individuals who lay claim to plots within JKIA to a meeting to “tell us how they acquired titles to land that belongs to JKIA”.
“They appeared and requested to be given time to respond to claims by JKIA, which had reported that the land had been given to the airport many decades ago and it got a title for the entire land measuring 4,674.6 hectares,” Ms Mbagaya said.
During the meeting, they were to present original plot allocation documents, including letters of offer/allotment, receipts of payment for allocation, part development plans, deed plans, title deeds, leases and “any other relevant documents of ownership”.
A full hearing is scheduled for December 19. In the meantime, preparations to revoke the illegal titles are ongoing.
Of the 119 titles, 62 were done from 1996, while 57 were acquired before 1996. “Before JKIA could get their title, between the periods when compulsory acquisition was being done, some took advantage to create plots.
“Then again, while JKIA was sitting pretty, comfortable on its title, some people were creating plots inside their land and getting titles for the same.
“But the long and short of it is that there is a lot of public utility land in the wrong hands, and JKIA is just one of them. As NLC, we must do the right thing for the country and the aviation industry,” she said.
Previously, JKIA was operating on “reservation”, a presidential decree designating the land as belonging to the airport, but with no title.
Then on August 1, 1996, JKIA was allocated LR No. 21919, which is 4,674.6 hectares (11,551.2 acres) under grant number 70118 for 99 years.
According to NLC, JKIA has never made any alterations to its title and all excisions made on the land are illegal and will be revoked.
Besides JKIA, NLC has been investigating illegal encroachment on land belonging to Wilson Airport on Lang’ata Road.
In August, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), for instance, said the plot where Weston Hotel stands is among hundreds of parcels that it intends to reclaim from private developers.