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Economy

MPs hear petition to oust Swazuri despite court order

National Lands Commission chairman Mohamed Swazuri appearing before the National Assembly Lands Committee on March 29, 2017 where he is being investigated for alleged corruption. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG
National Lands Commission chairman Mohamed Swazuri appearing before the National Assembly Lands Committee on March 29, 2017 where he is being investigated for alleged corruption. FILE PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG  

The National Assembly's Lands Committee on Thursday morning continued with consideration of a petition for the removal of National Land Commission (NLC) chairman Muhammad Swazuri despite a court order stopping it.

Committee chairman Alex Mwiru said the orders obtained by Prof Swazuri are yet to be served to the Speaker of the National Assembly through the Clerk, Michael Sialai.

"Until such a time as I am served or directed by the Speaker, I will continue executing the mandate of the committee. That is unless I am directed otherwise. By chairing the committee, I am not in contravention of any law," said Mr Mwiru.

He said he had only heard of the order through rumours and in the Press.

Ndegwa Njiru, Mr Mugo Njeru's lawyer, said he had been called by Prof Swazuri's lawyer, Prof Tom Ojienda, and told about the order but had also not seen it.

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Mr Njeru, the man behind the petition, is accusing Mr Muhamad of defrauding his wife of cash she had been awarded as compensation by the NLC.

Former journalist Mugo Njeru when he appeared before the National Assembly Lands commission that is investigating Mr Swazuri. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NMG

Mr Mugo Njeru when he appeared before the National Assembly Lands commission that is investigating Mr Swazuri. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NMG

Hesitant to testify

NLC chief executive Tom Chavangi, who is meeting the committee, said the order had been served on him, and was hesitant to testify.

But Mr Mwiru ruled, upon scrutiny of a copy of the order, that Mr Chavangi could testify as he was not constrained by the order because it was not addressed to him.

"Mr Tom Aziz might have found the document but he is not the one it is addressed to. The petition itself does not even touch on you anywhere," said Mr Mwiru.

Lands Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi was scheduled to meet the committee but did not.

Also invited Thursday morning were NLC officials Brian Ikol, who is the director of legal affairs, and director of finance Francis Mugo.

Mr Ikol’s name has come up several times in the course of meetings with the petitioner Mugo Njeru, Prof Swazuri and commissioners Abigael Mbagaya and Dr Tom Konyimbih.

Mr Ikol was reported to have been present in meetings presided over by Prof Swazuri at his office at which Mr Njeru said he was asked to agree to a settlement he did not like.

Ms Abigael Mbagaya, the commission’s vice chairman told the committee that there were three claimants to the Sh83-million plot, and that the matter had been put in abeyance, but she had heard that the land had been paid for.

In the second case, where another plot was valued at Sh43 million, she said a letter signed by Prof Swazuri determining that the land belonged to Dasahe Investments Ltd “was not part of the deliberations of the commission.”

Asked what she thought of a second letter, also signed by Prof Swazuri, that the Sh86-million plot belonged to Bahkresa Grain Millers Ltd, she said: “What is the need of the plenary if the decision has been made already?”

Ms Mbagaya said there were formal procedures for Alternative Dispute Resolution in the commission and suggested they were not the sort of meetings Prof Swazuri would convene in his office.

Dr Konyimbih also disowned the decision favouring Bahkresa Grain Millers.

“As the chairman of the land acquisition, valuation, compensation and taxation committee, I am not aware this money, Sh82.8 million has been paid to anybody,” he said.

Seek guidance from Speaker

The committee could however be forced to suspend its sittings if Parliament’s lawyers brief the MPs about the court order obtained by Prof Swazuri stopping the proceedings.

If it handles the matter the same way that the Finance Committee dealt with the order stopping its consideration of a petition against Auditor-General Edward Ouko, the committee will ask Speaker Justin Muturi for guidance on the matter.

Mr Muturi last week obeyed the court orders barring Parliament from handling the petition on Mr Ouko and asked Parliament’s lawyers to file an appeal against them.

On Wednesday, members of the committee led by chairman Alex Mwiru reacted badly to the issuance of the order, with Kieni MP Kanini Kega taking it as an affront to the committee.

“We knew you were going to do this with all the dillydallying. It is unfortunate that you are a member of the Judicial Service Commission  and you go ahead and do this. Whether you hide under the table or wherever, we are going to get you,” said Mr Kega.

Prof Swazuri was later declared a hostile witness when he refused to hand over documents that he said he had in his possession and had been asked to bring in the afternoon.

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