Everyone is scrambling for a piece of land in Embakasi,” said Njiru Location chief Josephat Githenji, sitting amid a pile of paperwork.
For the last few months, Mr Githenji’s office in the Embakasi area on the outskirts of Nairobi has been awash with paperwork.
Unfortunately, most of it is fake; everything from fake titles to building permits. Property investors in Embakasi are losing out to well-organised cartels who resell land to unsuspecting investors, create fake property documents, and sell poorly constructed buildings.
Mr Githenji encounters many complaints of double allocation of land. When he pushes the parties to furnish him with ownership proof, he often gets forged papers.
Kenyans’ hunt for a plot has led to land in the area being sub-divided into minute plots which unscrupulous agents sell to as many as five people at a time. Most buyers are unaware that they are not the true owners of the land, until they attempt to develop it or take a loan on it.
For those who manage to secure a plot, shifty contractors are the order of the day. Mr Githenji said that not a single house in the entire Njiru in Embakasi area is built to legal specifications. Most of the victims are civil servants who were retrenched in the 1990s and invested their golden handshake money in the area. Other victims are shareholders who invested through ranching companies. Area MP Ferdinand Waititu said sprouting estates gave a false impression of an area that is the panacea to Nairobi’s middle class housing shortage problem.
“You see a lot of what I would call ‘chaotic ownership’ . In some instances, you can find up to 10 claims to one parcel of land,” said the MP.
Today, a quarter acre in a non-prime area fetches between Sh400,000 and Sh500,000 with those in the prime zone asking for millions of shillings.
But shareholders, many of who are pursuing their deceased parents’ shares, claim that they are losing land to ranching companies.
James Banga said: “They sell your land, which was procured at Sh4,000 a share, at a huge profit and then propose to refund you Sh4,000 a share.”
A former surveyor with Embakasi Ranching Company, Eustace Mahinda, said he had an original map of the area, adding that a lot of distortion had taken place. “For instance, I have a map showing 350 acres of public utility land in Ruai. There are a further 100 acres in Njiru area. But the reality on the ground is that all this has been traded off.” Some shareholders have been trying to meet President Kibaki or Prime Minister Raila Odinga to resolve the issue.
Lands PS Dorothy Angote said the woes bedeviling area residents were a result of haphazard administration of land at the national database.
“Unless we put in place a national land policy that will create a national land information management system, it will be very hard to escape such complaints,” she said.
She said such a system “will, at a touch of a button, resolve cases of double allocation and fraudulent sale of private land.” She lamented that the rot had prevailed since 1907 when the search for a land policy started.