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Counties

Activist goes after millions lost in Busia mill project

Okiya Omtatah
Activist Okiya Omtatah. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU 

After a successful petition that ensured 843 acres of land in Busia reverts back to the government, activist Okiya Omutatah now wants investigations conducted to determine why a sugar factory project on the property turned out to be a white elephant.

The land was acquired compulsorily in 1996 to establish Busia Sugar Factory, but to date the project has never taken off.

At least 100 families were displaced without compensation despite assurance that they would be reimbursed and allocated alternative land.

Busia Sugar Zone and Mumias Sugar are alleged to have entered into agreement to buy sugar cane on Nasewa Nucleus Estate (where the factory was to be built), putting the economic viability of th eproject into question.

Mr Omtahah said millions of shillings that were released by the state to set up the miller could have ended up in pockets of some individuals.

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“This was State funds that have to be accounted for. The Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji and his Directorate of Criminal Investigation counterpart George Kinoti should investigate this matter and tell the public why Busia Sugar factory was never set up,” he said Wednesday.

The activist said something didn't add up considering that the factory was put under receivership before it was even constructed.

“The government wanted sugar factory put up in Nasewa but some people rushed and registered a company then proceeded to ask the government for funding to set it up.

He said that the first step towards ensuring that justice was served was reclaiming the land from what he termed as ‘fraudsters,’ a move he successfully won on July 31 when the Environment and Land Court in Bungoma revoked the Busia Sugar Company’s title deed.

The verdict gave the government leeway to reclaim the land.

And last week a new title deed bearing the name of Principal Secretary for Treasury was released.

Speaking after handing over the title deed to the government through Busia County Commissioner Jacob Narengo’s office, Mr Omutatah expressed delight that his 8-year long advocacy and litigation to recover the land had finally paid off.

After Busia Sugar Company was placed under receivership, Mumias Sugar Company (MSC) claimed the estate on grounds that the firm owed it Sh100 million.

Mumias later put up the land for sale prompting Mr Omtatah to sue Mumias and Busia sugar companies in 2012.

Governor Sospeter Ojaamong’s administration has already announced plans to construct a Sh30 billion modern agricultural industrial park on the land.

The county boss last month met Chinese investors led by their regional chairperson William Zhou and agreed to set up the park that will foster mass production of cereals, animal feeds, ethanol, organic fertiliser, among others.

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