Residents of Kitui South are up in arms against their MP Racheal Kaki Nyamai over attempts to frustrate the issuance of title deeds by the county government.
Ms Nyamai, who is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Lands Committee, has been opposed to a land adjudication and titling programme spearheaded by Governor Charity Ngilu over claims that the process is casting her as incompetent.
On Friday, residents woke up to a public notice at the entrance of the Kitui Lands Registry that will remain closed and that all ministry staff will be attending a meeting, at an undisclosed place.
On the same day, Governor Ngilu was supposed to issue more than 4000 title deeds to residents of Ikanga/Kyatune Ward in Kitui south, which were processed after the county government funded the adjudication programme to fast track the titling process.
Without giving further details, Kitui Lands Registrar Robert Gichuki told the Nation.Africa that the registry was closed at the instructions of Cabinet secretary Farida Karoney, and will be re-opened on Monday.
Ms Nyamai accused Governor Ngilu of ‘stealing the political show’ by issuing the titles without involving her in the middle of election campaigns.
“I’m the chair of the Parliamentary committee that oversees the Ministry of Lands. The title deeds will be issued by CS Karoney because I cannot allow the governor to get all political mileage,” Ms Nyamai said during a political rally in her constituency.
Governor Ngilu says the programme to fast track the issuance of title deeds is a partnership between the county government and the Ministry of Lands, which was launched in 2019 by Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri.
“We provided human resource support to the ministry surveyors by employing casuals who help them in land adjudication across the county and that is what enabled them to complete the process within three years,’’ said Mrs Ngilu.
She wondered where the MP had been when she intervened on the emotive land issues that lay within her docket in parliament.
The governor said that she had issued more than 20,000 title deeds in the last three weeks in Mwingi north, Mwingi west, Kitui west and Kitui east, and blamed the MP and CS Karoney of frustrating a programme that had been sanctioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I’m surprised that Ms Nyamai is realising too late how dear the title deeds are to land owners. Every Kitui resident knows the role my government played in ensuring the titling process is fast tracked,” she said.
After the issuance ceremony aborted, angry residents accused their MP of opposing the governor’s land ownership agenda to shore up her dwindling political fortunes.
Mr David Muli, a youth leader and businessman in Mutomo market, protested that it was wrong for the land registry to be closed for political reasons.
“We want CS Karoney to keep off Kitui politics, and release the titles for Kitui south to Governor Ngilu as it has happened in other constituencies in the county,’’ Mr Muli said, adding taking sides on a programme launched by her PS was painting her ministry in bad light.
Another trader, Mr Wambua Kaviti from Ikutha wondered why the Lands ministry was holding the ready titles yet residents had waited for the documents since independence.
“We were here when Lands PS Muraguri and Governor Ngilu launched the programme, and we are very happy that our farms were surveyed in record time, so whoever thinks he can frustrate the process at this stage is misguided,” said Mr Kaviti.
At the centre of the controversy are complaints from the local community that powerful people have grabbed huge tracts of land in Kitui south, which is rich with mineral resources including iron ore, limestone and copper.
Three years ago, Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote abandoned plans of investing in cement manufacturing at the Kanziko area of Kitui south constituency, citing frustration by powerful government officials.
The Dangote Group had announced plans to put up a Sh34.8 billion cement plant in the area with a capacity to produce 5,500 tonnes of cement daily, but relocated their investment to Ethiopia.