The Ministry of Agriculture has been ordered to surrender a title deed to a 54.55-hectare piece of land after a court established that it was illegally acquired by the ministry.
In a ruling issued on Friday by Justice James Olola of the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri, the ministry and the National Land Commission (NLC) were given 45 days to produce the title documents before court.
For two years now, the government agencies have been involved in a legal tussle with 36 residents of Nyeri’s Gatitu area for obtaining their plot of land registered as L.R. Aguthi/Gatitu/3447 through compulsory acquisition and failing to compensate them.
The locals, through their representative Ephraim Gathuma had told the court that the government began the process of compulsory acquisition in January 2007 but 13 years later, the government was yet to complete the procedure.
During that period, after a gazette notice the government changed the registration of the ownership documents to its name in 2014.
In his ruling, Justice Olola said the court would retain the ownership documents until the government paid a full compensation for the estate.
He found that the certificate of title acquired by the government was obtained contrary to the law and in violation of the rights of the original owners.
“The constitution demands that where land is so acquired, the just compensation is to be paid promptly in full to those like the plaintiff whose interest in the land have been determined,” he said.
Following the compulsory acquisition, the court heard that the government converted the estate to the Wambugu Farmers Agricultural Training Centre.
While delivering his decision, the judge, however, noted that the suit was undefended as the ministry and NLC failed to file any reply to the matter.
He found that an inquiry held on April 12, 2007 ascertained that the suit property had 35 beneficiaries who were found eligible to receive compensation.
“That fact was again confirmed in a decision delivered by the High Court on September 23, 2015 in a Miscellaneous Civil Application instituted by the Land Commission,” he said.
An affidavit by Gathuma showed that before the compulsory acquisition process began, the land had been previously sub-divided with different ownership documents by the locals but the ministry merged the titles into one.