Opinion split after Oparanya demolishes shops on freehold land

Sunday, January 5th, 2020 16:04 | By
Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya. Photo/PD/FILE

Lawyers are sharply divided over whether governors have power to trespass and demolish private property on freehold areas after recent demolitions witnessed in Kakamega town and supervised by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

Scores of traders are counting loses running in to millions of shillings caused by the sudden demolitions that mainly targeted kiosks erected on the road reserve, a clean-up, which Governor Oparanya says should transform Kakamega to city status.

Asked whether Oparanya was justified to demolish an upcoming morgue on freehold land and to storm and cart away coffins from a private premises on Canon Awori Street last Friday, the county's attorney, Moses Sande, said no law had been breached.

He said the mortuary developer had no single approval for the project situated in the Emusonga residential area and also lacked the blessings of the residents. He claimed the developer defied two orders from the department of land to stop the construction.

Sande said the governor’s action to storm the shop and confiscate dozens of coffins was justified.

“As I speak to you now, that business is not licensed. The county department for lands, physical planning and urban development revoked the permit,” said Sande.

But Kakamega-based lawyer Zablon Atulo faulted Oparanya, saying he was exercising absolute powers.

For the case of the mortuary, the Physical Planning Act could help escape court sanctions particularly of the development was never approved but for trespass and confiscation of coffins, it’s an issue of legal redress.

“Unless sanctioned by relevant authorities and backed by an approval from Physical Planning Department, a mortuary on a freehold land area can be faced with legal challenges,” said Atulo. 

Both lawyers were in agreement that affected kiosk owners’ lacked legal basis to demand compensation as the allotment was temporary.

“We are aware that some of the kiosks are branded by the county government and were launched by the governor but that does not negate the fact they were given on temporary basis and were also erected on wrong places," said the lawyer.

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