EACC probes Galana land grab claims

Monday, May 24th, 2021 00:00 | By
Ex-KANU Sec Gen Nick Salat Photo/PD/File

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is investigating allegations of irregular allocation of Sh15 billion public land in Kilifi county.

EACC says the inquiry follows complaints by the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) that State officials had sanctioned the annexing of over 300,000 of its Galana/Kulalu ranch.

The anti-graft agency plans to summon top officials of the ministries of Lands, Water and Interior Affairs linked to the scheme.

ADC officials are also expected to furnish the commission with documents regarding the ownership of the land.

“The commission has opened up investigations and there is intense inquiry into the allegations of irregular allocation of the land,” EACC communications officer Yasin Amaro said.

He did not, however, clarify when the people under investigation will be summoned nor did he reveal their identity saying the probe was at its initial stages.

Lands committee

“We will communicate at the opportune time on who will appear before us,” he said of the investigations that will be conducted by both Nairobi and Kilifi EACC offices.

Amaro’s disclosure comes at a time the National Assembly Committee on Lands has launched its own inquiry into the controversial matter.

When he appeared before the committee two weeks ago, ADC board chairman Nick Salat mentioned Principal Secretaries Karanja Kibicho (Interior), Nicholas Muraguri (Lands) and Joseph Irungu (Water) as some of the officials who may have information on the status of the allotments.

Salat told the MPs that a committee chaired by Kibicho was behind the allocation of the Sh15 billion public land in Kilifi county.

The National Development Implementation Technical Committee (NDITC), which is chaired by the Interior PS, is said to have approved the hiving off of over 300,000 acres of Galana/Kulalu irrigation scheme.

Salat told MPs that although ADC is the legal owner of the land title for the 1.7 million-acre land, the parastatal learned about the annexation of the land from the media when Irungu appeared on Citizen TV last November.

Private investors

“Our attention was drawn by the sentiments of Joseph Irungu, Principal Secretary for Water and Sanitation in his interview carried by Citizen TV, on 2nd November 2020 in which he expressed the government’s desire to dispose of the above-captioned properties in various ways including an allocation to squatters in Kilifi County,” he said.

He added: “In this regard, we understand that a committee, being the NDITC, has been mandated to deal with the matter.

Being custodians and having held the subject land in trust of the government and engagements of private investors by the Corporation, it is prudent that the Corporation is involved in all aspects.”

The ADC chair said there was a flurry of letters between ministries and other government agencies but both the corporation and the National Land Commission (NLC), which are legally mandated to handle the allocation, had been sidelined.

Salat told MPs that a letter dated November 12, 2020 from the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning had requested ADC to allow a group of surveyors to conduct preliminary activities in the quest to implement the food security project as directed by the Cabinet.

The second letter of November 15, 2020 addressed to the Agriculture CS Peter Munya, and copied to head of public service Joseph Kinyua, the Interior Affairs PS and Treasury CS Ukur Yatani also alluded to the plan.

Consequently, MPs now want NLC and the Water ministry officials to appear before them to shed light on the matter. 

NLC, which was not involved in the annexation, has sought more time before appearing before the House committee to explain the matter.

Members of the Lands committee questioned Salat on the involvement of the State parastatal in the protection of public land.

The committee, chaired by Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai, heard that some unscrupulous people had managed to hive off huge tracks of land and that illegal activities were taking place on the property.

“There are a lot of activities ongoing that we don’t have information on. There are so many quarries with a danger that over 300,000 acres of land are in the hands of brokers and illegal occupants of the property,” Salat told the committee members.

Current value

He said that if the land in question were to be valued it would be worth an estimated Sh15 billion.

Salat called on committee members to visit the land, saying hiving off government land must get the approval of the National Assembly.

“The land has a title deed under ADC. We cannot stop the government from giving out the land. But all we are asking for is to be involved in the processes,” said Salat.

But MPs Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Caleb Kositany (Soy) and Ali Wario (Bura) challenged ADC to engage with the NLC and the Ministry of Lands with a view to unmasking how the land was hived off.

The committee is considering a public petition by Garsen residents regarding the subdivision of the ADC land.

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