A storm is brewing after a private developer emerged, laying claim to part of a 600-acre piece of land in Pipeline, Nakuru County, initially earmarked for the building of an airport and which the State also says it owns.
The development comes hardly a week after Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui asked the national government to use the land for building of houses in the State's ambitious affordable housing programme.
Governor Kinyanjui, who is also the Council of Governors’ Urban Planning, Housing, Development, Lands, Infrastructure and Energy committee chairman, asked the State Department for Housing and Urban Development to consider change of use of the land in order to support the national government’s Big Four agenda, since plans for building of the airport on the land had been shelved.
Mr Kinyanjui made the request when he accompanied the Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga in a tour of Kaptembwa and Kwa Rhoda estates to inspect roads and drainage systems a week ago.
Whereas the National Land Commission (NLC), through its Nakuru County office insisted that the land is owned by the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), the businessman, Mr Maina Ndua Thuo, says Thuo Commercial Agencies Limited, in which he is a director, owns 306 acres of the land situated in Nakuru Town East Constituency.
The Nation established that two prominent people in the country also lay claim to the remaining part of the land.
“I was perplexed to learn that the government wants to use the land in construction of houses in the affordable housing programme in total disregard of the fact that it is not State property. There were plans to sell the land to the government to construct an airport but the deal stalled after environmentalists said the property was on a birds’ migratory route,” Mr Thuo told the Nation in an interview.
The Nakuru airport was to be built on the land in 2011.
The government even allocated Sh250 million for preparatory work in the 2011/2012 fiscal year.
However, prospects of building the airport by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and KAA were abandoned after the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) declined to approve the project on grounds that the land lay along the migratory route of flamingos.
Nema said the land was a flight path for flamingos leaving Lake Nakuru National Park.
Since then, the project never kicked off until in 2017 when Governor Kinyanjui’s administration revived the plans and, currently, the Lanet military airstrip is under construction as the government plans to have it upgraded into an international airport.
In an exclusive interview with the Nation, the Nakuru County Lands Management Board boss, Mr Kiberekenya, maintained that the 600-acre land belongs to KAA.
He dismissed claims that the land is private property.
“KAA has the right legal ownership documents. Anybody claiming to own the land is a grabber. I have actually been urging KAA to fence off the land to keep off encroachers,” Mr Kiberekenya told the Nation.
He said KAA was expected to fence the parcel of land in 2015 when the commission raised the issue.
“Encroachment on the parcel started in 2014 and became rampant in 2015 when residents of the locality, largely squatters, raised the matter with the commission,” he added.
However, according to a senior officer at KAA who sought anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to journalists, the authority has plans to obtain funds this financial year for fencing off the land.
“The land belongs to KAA and we have the title deed. We shall fence it off and forcibly evict any encroachers,” said the source.
The official also revealed that upon learning that some private developers were pursuing the land, they placed a caveat on it in three years ago, which is still in place.
In what could turn into a fresh showdown between the private developer and the State, Mr Thuo also produced a title deed that indicates that Thuo Commercial Agencies Limited owns 306 acres of the land.
The businessman now claims the land is not public as claimed by the NLC.
In 2015, the then KAA acting Managing Director Yatich Kangugo issued a notice of evacuation of people who had settled on the land.
Mr Kangugo told potential buyers of land to beware of conmen selling parcels in the area which he said belonged to KAA.
The visit followed concerns by residents about the demarcation of the land by unknown people.
Interestingly, the land has been lying idle and unfenced, making it vulnerable and exposed to grabbers.