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MPs find Muhammad Swazuri unfit for top lands position over payments to grabbers

Swazuri. [Standard file photo]

NAIROBI: Embattled National Lands Commission (NLC) Chairman Muhammad Swazuri is an unfit for office, MPs have said.

The National Assembly’s departmental committee on Lands, which was investigating allegations of misconduct and financial impropriety against him, found him unfit to lead the commission.

The committee was to table its report last Thursday but it was shelved due to lack of quorum.

Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda and Kapenguria‚Äôs Samuel Moroto, who are members of the committee,¬†said¬†Swazuri¬†had serious integrity issues. ‚ÄúWe are done with the probe. The report will be tabled on the floor of the House and a copy sent to the petitioner,‚ÄĚ Sakuda¬†said.

In a petition by former journalist Mugo Njeru, Swazuri is alleged to have paid taxpayers’ money to individuals for grabbed land. The committee found that some of the land the NLC paid for was actually government land owned by Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC.)

NLC commissioners told the commission that Swazuri sanctioned payment of Sh82.3 million for land claimed by Mugo to another party.

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Commissioners Silas Kinoti, Emma Muthoni Njogu, Dr Rose Musyoka, Samuel Tororei and Abdikadir Kalifh said the commission did not approve the payments. They said most of the payments were made in December when they were out of office.

Plenary decision

They said Swazuri authorised the payments before the committee on grants and dispositions finalised investigations into the ownership of the land in dispute. The commissioners said they were yet to see a letter Swazuri wrote to the KRC, adding that for any ratification to be made, five members of the commission must be present.

‚ÄúAt any one time a decision is to be made by a subcommittee of the¬†commission, there must be three commissioners. We didn‚Äôt know about the Sh82 million payment. The decision has to be ratified by the plenary,‚Ä̬†said¬†Njogu.

Musyoka said the land was being claimed by Mugo’s wife, Desahe Limited and a Mr Noor.

‚ÄúA determination was made that¬†said¬†no payments should be made because the process had not been completed and I table minutes of the meetings held on May 10 and October 22, 2015 to confirm this,‚Ä̬†said¬†Musyoka.

MPs¬†took¬†Swazuri¬†to task for paying individuals claiming public¬†land. ‚ÄúWhy did the¬†chairman¬†authorise payment without consulting KRC, which is the acquiring entity?‚ÄĚ asked Rangwe MP George Oner. The committee heard from Cabinet Secretary (CS) Jacob Kaimenyi (Lands),¬†Lands¬†Secretary Kangethe Kahuho and the KRC Chief Executive¬†Officer¬†Athanas Maina.

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Initially, Prof Kaimenyi told the committee that the two plots at the centre of the investigations were genuine, but retracted when pressed further by the MPs. The CS later confirmed to the committee that the documents used to acquire the land were forged.

‚ÄúWe can confirm that the individuals forged the documents to acquire the¬†land¬†which was paid out by the¬†commission,‚Ä̬†said¬†the CS. Maina dismissed claims by¬†Swazuri¬†that the¬†land¬†did not belong to KRC.

‚ÄúI¬†have¬†never issued any letter disowning the¬†land¬†in question. As a custodian of KRC properties, I cannot disown what is rightly ours. The corporation did not give the¬†NLC¬†approval to pay for the¬†land¬†in question,‚ÄĚ Maina told the¬†MPs.

MPs asked Njeru to explain how he acquired the two plots valued at Sh82 million and Sh43 million respectively.

‚ÄúMugo, I am sorry to inform you that you are not the owner of piece of¬†land¬†in question. You are a fraudster,‚Ä̬†said¬†the temporary committee chair George Oner (Rangwe).

Kahuho told the committee that the ministry was investigating all documents used to acquire the land and how they made their way to the ministry’s official records.

Title deeds

Director of Physical Planning Augustine Masinde told the committee that his office was not aware of the origin of the Part Development Plan (PDP) used by the allotees to acquire the land.

Oner and Sakuda asked why the ministry issued title deeds to the beneficiaries, knowing that the land was fraudulently acquired. They questioned why there were discrepancies in the documents presented by Njeru and the ministry.

It is at this point that the¬†Lands¬†Secretary asked to withdraw the documents and promised to table the right documents later. The committee sought to know the relationship between¬†NLC¬†and the ministry. ‚ÄúThe relations between my¬†office¬†and the¬†commission¬†have¬†not been cozy. It has not been easy to deal with¬†NLC¬†because of the so-called independence. They do things their own way,‚ÄĚ Kaimenyi¬†said.

Swazuri has pleaded his innocence on all claims levelled against him.

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