The government knew for two years that individuals were using forged documents to demarcate public land at the centre of the storm over the demolition of homes in Nairobi.
However, the Ministry of Lands said it was not its responsibility to caution the public from buying the plots, arguing that the Kenya Airports Authority should have issued caveats against encroachment.
“As the custodian of all registered titles, we established that these documents were not genuine when a group applied for conversion of Syokimau land in 2009,” the Commissioner for Lands Zablon Mabea told a joint parliamentary committee investigating the demolitions.
Mr Mabea said search papers, letters of allotment and title deeds that supported transactions in the areas that interfere with the flight paths to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were fake.
Mr Mabea told the committee comprising members from the lands and natural resources, national security and administration and transport committee that a shadowy group in Mlolongo infiltrated power corridors to secure approvals for the illegal transfer of KAA’s land.
According to Mr Mabea, the group had initially applied for conversion of a section of KAA’s land through his office in 2009 but opted for ‘corrupt means’ after the request was rejected over suspicious documents.
“They went ahead and forged the chief lands registrar’s signature and that of the minister which they later presented to the Attorney- General (A-G) to support the illegal transaction”, he told the joint Committee members.
The committee heard that AG’s office relied on the fake documents to instruct the Government Printer to publish a legal notice and subsequently a gazette notice that authorised the conversion of KAA’s land in August 2010.
Mr Mabea would, however, not explain how the fake documents were presented to the state law office on Lands ministry’s behalf. He also brushed aside an attempt by the MPs to force him to take responsibility for failing to alert the public about the illegal transaction saying KAA ought to have done so.
“I am as much burdened and aggrieved as a result of what is happening,” he said referring to the ongoing demolitions of structures on land reserved for airports and airstrips.
Unsuspecting individuals as well as members of Uungani Cooperative Society placed their trust on these documents to commit millions of shillings on real estate projects that have since been brought down by government bulldozers.
The latter has moved to court to contest the exercise that has so far left 400 families homeless after their abodes, some valued at Sh30 million, were brought down by bulldozers.
On Wednesday, Prof Githu Muigai—appointed AG in August this year— advised the government agencies implementing eviction directive to follow due process, warning that some of those rushing the process could be culpable.
On the third day of hearings yesterday, KAA’s managing director Stephen Gichuki led top officials of the agency in defending the ongoing demolitions saying all airports in the country are facing the same encroachment problem.
The KAA team said Syokimau and adjacent lands in the dispute are protected by Kenya Airports Authority Act as the property of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and have been earmarked for expansion projects under vision 2030.
“From 1971, the Act has also made it clear that any private land owned within the vicinity of an airport is subject to controlled development.” KAA team told said the joint parliamentary team.
The director of surveys, Mr Ephantus Murage, who appeared before the joint parliamentary committee together with Mr Mabea said the participation of surveyors in the illegal land allocation was a result of failure by government departments to share information.
“The departments do not share data at the moment and there is a lot of duplication and overlap of activities at all levels,” said Mr Murage, adding that duly licensed surveyors got sucked into the Embakasi and Mavoko land scandals.
The joint parliamentary committee chairman, Mr Mutava Musyimi, said other top lands officials would appear before the committee on Thursday next week.
“This matter is very sensitive that we can only draw our report after listening to all actors including ministry of defence and internal security counterpart,” Mr Musyimi said
Yesterday, parliament granted the joint committee an extension of one week to continue with the public hearings. For more than one week, the Government bulldozers have been bringing down residential and other properties in Embakasi and Mavoko as part of internal measures to improve security.
Hundreds of homes have brought down with some owners placing the value of their properties at about Sh30 million.