A decision by the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) to install high voltage power lines traversing seven parcels of land in Murang’a County without consent of the owners has cost taxpayers Sh3.5 million in damages.
Justice Grace Kemei of the Environment and Lands court has directed the government agency to compensate John Kiragu Sh1.2 million and Peter Kabue Sh2.3 million for trespass and loss of trees.
The judge also directed the agency to negotiate proper wayleave agreements/rights of way with the plaintiffs as per the provisions of section 148 of the Land Act, 2012 within 90 days.
The agency unlawfully entered the lands, felled trees and installed high voltage electric lines with instructions that nothing should be grown on the portion of land covered by the project.
The farmers said that in the month of October 2009, the Authority cut trees of various types which they had farmed for commercial purposes.
The power-line installed supplies power along the Kangema-Tuthu high voltage line project.
Mr Kabue said the government agency cut off his 605 assorted trees valued at more than Sh2 million on his six plots measuring one acre in total. On his part Mr Kiragu informed the court that he lost 300 mature trees valued at Sh981,939 occupying his three-quarter acre of land.
The plaintiffs testified that they suffered loss and damage because of REA’s actions.
Mr Kabue said since 2009, he has not utilised the land underneath the high voltage for construction of buildings. He stated REA has not compensated him despite several demand notices to do so, adding that he was seeking compensation in the sum of Sh5.7 million. He said this is because had the defendant not cut the trees he would have harvested 1.5 times for the period.
Mr Kiragu, on his part, informed the court that by then he had not signed any wayleave agreement with the defendant. That as a result he does not farm on the land underneath the power lines.
In its defence, REA denied felling the trees without permission and that it unlawfully installed a high voltage power line traversing the suit lands. Further, it denied that farming underneath the said high voltage lines was disallowed.
In the alternative, the defendant said it sought and was granted wayleave consent by the plaintiffs to enter and install the power lines.
It said the plaintiffs’ claims were time barred in accordance with the provisions of Limitations of Actions Act since the cause of action occurred in October 2009.
Caroline Ochichi, the senior wayleave officer at REA, informed the court that the agency was willing to pay the compensation but that the plaintiffs filed a suit before the process was completed.
She stated that the plaintiffs could still utilise the area occupied by the pylons for growing crops but that they cannot build houses under the power lines.