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NLC backtracks on bid to buy 34 plots for SGR

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NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government has made a U-turn on an order for the acquisition of 16 acres of land in Mombasa for the standard gauge railway (SGR).

The National Land Commission has stopped the purchase of 34 plots, which it had earmarked for forceful takeover in December 2014, following change in the SGR route design.

The move is meant to cushion Kenya Railways from being forced to compensate landowners.

“The parcels of land were initially earmarked for acquisition for the construction of the SGR line.

“However, we had to redesign the line around the Dongo Kundu by-pass which means that we no longer require the land. The owners were not paid,” said NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri in an interview. However, lawyers said owners of the property could still sue for compensation over lost earnings, adding that the notice may have stopped them from selling or developing the land.

Compensation for land acquired for the SGR project has been riddled with controversy and several court cases.

A 2016 Kenya Railways audit report showed that landowners with different property sizes were offered equal compensation.

The report also shows that owners of buildings were overpaid while others were paid for land that belonged to the government.

A court on Monday charged heads of the agency, entrusted with managing public land, with fraud over land allocation for the $3 billion (Sh102 billion) railway line linking Nairobi with Mombasa.

The line, funded by China, is one of the biggest infrastructure projects of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

Prof Swazuri, along with others, was charged with misusing taxpayers’ money through phoney compensation payments for land used for the SGR leading to loss of Sh221.4 million.

Last Month, a multi-billion shilling land compensation project for the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR line was stopped after an audit revealed inflated payments.

NLC said it stopped payments for 1,674 parcels of land, estimated at 2,544 acres, in a freeze that could further delay the Sh150 billion railway line.

The affected parcels of land are between Syokimau and Mai Mahiu.

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