Vice-chairperson Abigael Mbagaya and commissioner Abdulkadir Khalif, a trained surveyor who was heading the ICT and Geoinformation Systems sub-committee spoke on a wide range of performance, lapses, challenges and their views on the way forward. Ms Mbagaya says they believe that Weston Hotel owners should pay restitution to the people of Kenya after the commission agreed that the allocation was illegally done. Mr Khalif’s biggest concern right now is that many more public and community land may fall into the wrong hands.The NLC is mandated to advise the national government on a comprehensive programme for the registration of titles in land throughout Kenya. As the tenure of the National Land Commission (NLC) members draws to an end, there has been varying feedback concerning their achievements and failures, as Dr Muhammad Swazuri, the chairman, battles abuse of office charges.
According to one Ms Abigael Mbagaya, vice-chairperson, National Land Commission ,when the commision began,as it is in the public domain that we had some fights with the Ministry of Land. But these were just teething problems. They were having a new constitutional order that was establishing the National Land Commission (NLC) and the commission was coming to take over some of the functions that were predominantly performed by the ministry. As they were doing this separation and creation of this new institution, there was bound to be those transitional issues, but she says they have since moved on.
“Right now people are talking of some internal fights. There are no internal fights. The commission is intact. The mere fact that my chairman was arrested and that some of us are prosecution witnesses in the matter does not mean there is an internal war. We have worked together for the better part of the six years,” she added. The commission does not belong to individuals, but it is there for the good of the people of Kenya and there can be no vacuum. National Land Commission Act Schedule Four says that in the absence of the chairperson, the vice-chair shall take up the responsibilities of the chair.There was a court ruling that institutions are larger than any single individual and must continue to function.
When asked about Swazuris claims that she wanted to over-throw him, “My chairman had been removed by an order of the court. What were the alternatives available to me as the vice-chair? The only option available was to continue to chair meetings and ensure the commission continues to function. I had to step in and ensure we steer the commission in the right direction,”
Ms. Abigael said people don’t understand that compulsory acquisition is a core mandate of the commission. Acording to her, NLC are the managers of public land under Article 67. “If you look at Section 107 of the Land Act going forward, it says that the commission will carry out compulsory acquisition. Those who are saying we are spending too much time on compensations are misleading the public. That is a core mandate, something we must do. But this mandate is as important as any other. For example, on historical land injustices, when the Section 15 of the NLC Act said we shall look into this, the law also said we shall do a law, which we did and forwarded to parliament. However, the law was not adopted. Instead, parliament in its wisdom decided to give us amendments to Section 15, just expanding it and telling us how to go about historical injustices.”
NLC is said to have received 510 cases of which they have listened to 215 in that short time. Abigael claims amidist those limitations,NLC has done very well, she says the exiting commissioners have done what they could to the best of their ability. The NLC made a decision. We said we believe that Weston Hotel owners should pay restitution to the people of Kenya. Many Kenyans have been asking why we did that. When we sat and made this decision, we all agreed that the allocation was illegal and that the land belongs to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA). We also agreed that a mistake was made and we were able to apportion responsibility. We also noted that the Weston Hotel owner bought the land. Under Section 6 of the NLC Act, we have the power to make recommendations to government unlike Section14 which requires us to revoke. So we proceeded under Section 6 and we gave a recommendation that there should be restitution, she Concluded.