Land adjudication and processing of title deeds in Tigania East, Tigania West and Igembe has been a bone of contention over the past 15 years, with several attempts resulting in bloody confrontations over ownership.
However, the government is currently undertaking the exercise at a cost of Sh60 million that will see issuance of over 100,000 titles.
Residents have hailed the exercise that will see them receive title deeds for their land free of charge, saying it will be an appropriate Christmas and New Year gift for them.
The enthusiasm has been driven by the prospect of residents being compensated for their land as the government seeks to acquire 18,700 acres for construction of a 400MW wind power project at a cost of Sh7 billion. Land owners are set to reap benefits of compensation, as is the case with other multi-billion projects such as the SGR.
There are also speculators who have moved in to exploit the opportunity resulting to land prices doubling from Sh500,000 an acre to Sh1.2 million over the past two years.
“We have never seen a title deed and this is a good opportunity for us to feel that we own part of Meru. I cannot wait to lay my hands on the title deed,” said James Kanampiu, a resident of Tigania East.
To ensure that the exercise is carried out without a hitch, the government is spending Sh60 million in adjudication of land and processing of 100,000 title deeds in Meru county as it seeks to fast track construction of the multi-billion wind power project.
Lands officials were directed to fast-track adjudication and issuance of titles on an 18,700 piece of land to pave way for the wind power project.
The number of surveyors working in the sub county would be doubled to speed up the exercise and titles processed by February, Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri said, adding that President Uhuru Kenyatta would issue the documents.
Most of the surveyors will be stationed at Ngaremara, Kandebene, and Gambella areas on the parcel of land earmarked for the 400-megawatt wind power project.
Meru County Lands, Physical Planning and Urban Development executive Jeremiah Lenya said there were 24 adjudicators working in the area but the number would be increased to 48.
The project, which will be implemented by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), has been delayed following persistent disputes over land adjudication which threatened to scuttle the Sh7 billion investment. Ministry officials, alongside those of the National Land Commission (NLC), are expected to start land valuation after the titles are issued in readiness for compensation.
At Kandebene, Dr Muraguri was informed that there were 250 disputes that were being handled by lands officials in collaboration with local administrators and elders.
He urged residents to settle disputes in time so that they don’t lose out.
“Long standing disputes have prevented adjudication of land and our appeal is that you resolve them amicably so that we don’t miss out on this investment.
“If you cannot agree among yourselves and allow titles to be processed, investors will shift to other areas and you will have yourselves to blame,” Dr Muraguri told residents.
In 2014, KenGen signed a memorandum of understanding with the Meru County government to acquire land for the project.
The power generator received Sh7 billion from France in 2016 for construction of 80-megawatt wind farm, phase one of the 400MW project.
The project has been hit by controversy, with residents demanding to be allocated land first so that they can be compensated.