Mama Ngina University land seizure plan hits a snag

Mama Ngina University land seizure plan hits a snag

Some 2,500 families have protested the planned acquisition of 100 acres for the expansion of Mama Ngina University College in Mutomo, Gatundu South.

In court papers, the families say the government has not conducted public participation before earmarking their 400 quarter-acre plots for compulsory acquisition.

Consequently, they have sued the National Lands Commission (NLC), Mama Ngina University College, Kenyatta University, Ministry of Education and the Commission for University Education (CUE), and listed the Kenya Human Rights Commission as an interested party.

In the case filed at the Environment and Lands Court in Thika, the families want the government blocked from seizing their land, arguing that some of the land owners are elderly people, while there are about 100 graves on the land.

“Due to scarcity of land, the petitioners and other residents’ late parents and relatives are buried on these plots and it would be unethical and dehumanising to the residents to exhume the bodies to take them elsewhere.

“We also have vulnerable, aged and sickly residents in this village, who are 80 to 100 years of age. Others are over 60 years, while others are 40 to 60 years and all are dependent on their relatives for their needs, especially medical. These people cannot be displaced to start a new life as this will lead them to an early and premature death,” the suit papers state.

Claims to compensation

On September 27, last year, the residents say, they woke up to news in the Kenya Gazette Special Volume issue CXXIII that their legally acquired land must be forfeited to the college’s management.

“There were details of their names, plot numbers and approximate areas of the plots to be taken. We understood that was the first phase and there is an impending second phase,” the suit papers add.

On December 20, the NLC published another gazette notice on behalf of the Ministry of Education informing about 160 residents to attend scheduled hearings of claims to compensation for the land required for the college.

The hearings are scheduled to run in four batches from Tuesday, January 25, at Mutomo Chief’s Camp from 9:30am up to Friday.

“Every person interested in the affected land is required to deliver to the NLC on or before the day of the inquiry, a written claim to compensation, copy of identity card, Personal Identification Number (PIN), land ownership documents and bank account details.

The residents now want the process halted to give them a chance to be heard and the compensation discussed.

Premature petition

“The petitioners, despite being owners of the land, have never been consulted, involved or discussed the issue of acquisition or compensation with NLC or the College, Kenyatta University, Ministry of Education or Commission for University Education (CUE) on the alleged acquisition of their land.

The matter was first brought before Justice B M Eboso in November last year under a certificate of urgency.
On November 26, the judge directed the respondents to file and serve their responses and scheduled an inter partes hearing on December 20.

However, the judges went on recess, forcing the matter to be pushed to January 31.

Attorney General Paul Kihara Kariuki has since objected to the orders being sought by the families on grounds that the government enjoys the unfettered right of eminent domain and compulsory acquisition in accordance with provisions of Article 40 (3) of the Constitution and part VIII of the Land Act No. 6 of 2012.

The AG further argues that the petition is premature since the petitioners are challenging a preliminary notice of intention to acquire issued under Section 107 of the Land Act.

“Consequently, conservatory orders cannot be granted as the reasons advanced are based on issues that will be resolved, as required by the law, in subsequent stages of the process of acquisition.”