Residents decry delays in expansion of university
A row is brewing at Mutomo village in Gatundu South, Kiambu county after it emerged that the government, through local leaders, is seeking to downgrade Mama Ngina University to a Technical and Vocational Education and Training Centre (TVET).
In what has been described as a supremacy battle between the current and former administrations, irked Mutomo villagers revealed that the scheme has been orchestrated to devalue retired President Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership under whose tenure the higher learning institution was established.
The locals who were set to benefit from the project by putting up rental houses and establishing small businesses that would serve students and university staff accused area MP Gabriel Kagombe of mooting the plan with the Education Ministry to advance certain political interests.
Led by Long John, an elite member of the Mutomo community, the furious residents claimed that already, Kagombe had begun the process of downgrading the institution to a TVET yet the constituency already has three such centres.
The MP, it is reported, has already met Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu and discussed the plan but has been met with sharp criticism by residents.
“We will not hide anything, we speak in broad daylight. We have information that our MP has met Education CS and told him that the locals don’t want a university. We have three TVETs but we don’t have a single university here and we will now allow this one to go,” said John.
In a heated meeting at Mutomo shopping centre that was also attended by the MP, residents decried that should Kagombe’s plot materialise, the development projects that would have sprouted in the area as a result of the university will be diverted to other regions.
They at the same time regretted that their personal development plans would be stalled, a move they stated would impoverish them.
Also, at the centre of their fury is the delayed compensation of about 180 residents who surrendered their parcels of land for the expansion of the university.
The land owners who have been living in anguish after acquiring loans from financial institutions to buy alternative land, anticipating to pay the lenders with money awarded in the transfer deal signed about seven months ago between them and the National Land Commission (NLC) are demanding Sh 2.2 billion pay-outs from the government.
In the deal, the beneficiaries were to be paid between Sh 10 million and Sh 35 million per plot, depending on the developments therein.
The land owner’s association chairman Harun Gacheru said they were to be paid within three months after signing the awards in May last year but the government has been taking them in circles since then.
Gacheru, however, upheld that locals were ready to wait even longer if the government had no money to compensate them at this time but were opposed to the plan of downgrading the university.
But Kagombe who denied advancing such a plan says the lack of financing by the government is to blame for the delayed completion of the project.
The MP said the government will, through a supplementary budget, allocate funds to both compensate locals and expand the varsity.
“I have never proposed such a plan and in fact, I was at the centre of establishing this varsity when I worked as the PA to former MP Moses Kuria. The challenge we have here is funding and we will push to have the funds allocated so that you can be compensated for the university to be expanded,” stated the MP.
As the tens of locals demand payment by NLC, another opposing group which declined to sign documents to allow the government to acquire their land has been adamant that they will not allow the government to evacuate them.