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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’s Samuel Moroto, who are members of the committee, said Swazuri had serious integrity issues. “We are done with the probe. The report will be tabled on the floor of the House and a copy sent to the petitioner,” 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.

“At any one time a decision is to be made by a subcommittee of the commission, there must be three commissioners. We didn’t know about the Sh82 million payment. The decision has to be ratified by the plenary,” said Njogu.

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

“A 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,” said Musyoka.

MPs took Swazuri to task for paying individuals claiming public land. “Why did the chairman authorise payment without consulting KRC, which is the acquiring entity?” 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.

“We can confirm that the individuals forged the documents to acquire the land which was paid out by the commission,” said the CS. Maina dismissed claims by Swazuri that the land did not belong to KRC.

“I 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,” Maina told the MPs.

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

“Mugo, I am sorry to inform you that you are not the owner of piece of land in question. You are a fraudster,” 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. “The 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,” Kaimenyi said.

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

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