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Cotu opposes State plan to use Portland land for housing

Squatters
Squatters living on East African Portland Cement Company land in Mavoko protesting planned eviction last weekend. PHOTO | STANLEY NGOTHO 

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) has moved to court to challenge a decision by the Government to compulsorily acquire 4,256 acres of land for free from troubled East African Portland Cement Company (EAPCC) for construction of affordable homes under the Big Four Agenda.

In a case mentioned before Justice Loice Komingoi Wednesday, Cotu through lawyer Donald Kipkorir, said the Government is planning to construct houses on the parcel in conjunction with Qatari investors without consulting the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) which holds shares at EAPCC.

The manufacturer of Blue Triangle brand of cement will cede 4,256 acres to the Government for free because it failed to put it to agricultural use in line with allocation terms inked in 1960.

Mr Kipkorir said in a letter dated July 11, 2019, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Land and Physical Planning wrote to the EAPCC chairman and board of directors expressing interest to acquire the land in Athi River, Machakos County.

This was followed by another letter about a month later, reminding the EAPCC acting managing director to surrender the land so that the Ministry of Lands would fast-track the transfer of the title to the Government.

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In an affidavit, Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli said that while he keenly notes the policy frameworks in the implementation of the government’s Big Four Agenda, especially on affordable housing, the Government had subverted the laid down procedures and guidelines.

“That as the Secretary- General of Cotu, in consultation with EAPCC and NSSF do confirm that we have not held discussions or passed or given any approvals of intention to dispose of the only EAPCC asset at the moment and the actions of the respondents to compulsorily acquire all the property L.R. 10425 measuring 4272 acres is fundamental violation of property, economic and labour relations rights under the constitution,” said Mr Atwoli said in a statement.

He said Cotu decided to prosecute the matter in the interest of justice, noting that NSSF is the biggest shareholder and investor in EAPCC.

He said Portland’s financial status has been dwindling over the years and the only asset left is the land.

“The deteriorating operating performance of EAPCC does not signify in any way that they are not in business or that they are not using their parcel of land for the intended use,” he said, adding that the disposal of the asset will be detrimental to the company.

The court documents revealed that EAPCC has put forward a potential equity of Sh45 billion over the next five years, which the company and its stakeholders believe will fundamentally elevate the company’s facilities such as its ageing plant and machinery, which has caused significant periods of downtown.

The judge directed the parties to file their replies and submissions ahead of the hearing on December 9.

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