Confusion mars land ownership transfers

PHOTO | FILE Lands Secretary Charity Ngilu reportedly ignored advice from the National Lands Commission against the appointment of Mr Peter Kahuho last month as the Director-General Lands. There is confusion as to whether Mr Kahuho can sign land titles.

What you need to know:

  • Stakeholders angered by development even as ministry maintains there is no crisis
  • Mr Kahuho was recently appointed to replace former Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea who was transferred to the Ministry of Interior.

Confusion is stalking the Lands ministry over whether the acting Director-General of Lands Peter Kahuho should be gazetted to sign land titles.

Mr Kahuho was recently appointed to replace former Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea who was transferred to the Ministry of Interior.

Under transitional clauses in land laws, Mr Mabea, a presidential appointee, had been a signatory for titles endorsed by the National Lands Commission. However, the new officer appointed by the Public Service Commission cannot sign land titles in what the ministry admits is a legal vacuum.

“Categorically, there are no new leases being signed. This is not an interim measure; it has to be properly done to avoid legal landmines,” a Lands officer in the ministry told the Sunday Nation.

“That transition is still in place, but the current Lands secretary can continue to sign the titles. What is required is clarity on the legality of the new officeholder.”

Although the signing of land titles is just one of the 14 steps in the transfer of land, a change of the signatory last month means there has been a delay in its execution.

Technically, Mr Mabea, who previously served as lands commissioner, was a presidential appointee who was to serve as a signatory for land titles. Mr Kahuho is a Public Service appointee, and the law is vague on whether he should directly be gazetted to continue with that role.

Under section 108 of the Land Registration Act, the notices, directions or administrative decisions taken before the new Constitution came into existence continue to be used, but the cabinet secretary can still alter these procedures in her own regulations.

On Friday the National Lands Commission said it was clearing a backlog of titles that had been piling up in its office for some time.

“The files have taken so long because I have been away in Lamu. It is the mandate of the commission to authenticate those titles and we are doing whatever we can to finish with the matter,” commission chair Mohammed Swazuri said.

Ordinarily, the commission approves titles following a background check before forwarding them to a designated officer in the ministry to sign and send for approval. At the moment, the legal tussle between the commission and the ministry means no one in the ministry can authoritatively sign the documents forwarded by the commission.

On Friday, an officer said there has not been a crisis since Mr Mabea left because most of the titles he was signing were prepared last year.

“The titles are endorsed by the National Lands Commission, then they are signed by someone from the ministry which is what Mr Mabea was doing.

“Currently the endorsement by the NLC is still going on, but if you look at the legal vacuum that exists, there has to be a lot more consultation on who is going to sign the new titles,” said the officer who cannot be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

This confusion has angered stakeholders who on Friday sought Lands Secretary Charity Ngilu’s input on the matter.

“People do not want to hear the noise coming out of the ministry; what they want is service. Anyone who doesn’t want to place that as a priority has missed the point. The ministry should not have any problem because they have the national land policy, Constitution and other laws for guidance,” argued Mr Ibrahim Mwathane of the Land Development and Governance Institute.

OPPOSED REDEPLOYMENT

So far, Parliament has passed the National Lands Commission Act,  the Land Registration Act, the Environment and Land Courts as well as endorsing the National Land Policy.

But the confusion at the ministry means there won’t be any new land ownership transfers, leases or inheritances. Sources told the Sunday Nation that the National Lands Commission opposed the redeployment of Mr Kahuho in his new role because Mr Mabea’s appointment had not been revoked by the President.

“The commission advised the cabinet secretary against it because there was no basis for doing so. Mr Mabea was to act in transition for the commission.”

Last November Ms Ngilu appointed Mr Kahuho, for which she was reprimanded by Parliament for “unconstitutional, illegal and irregular acts of creating offices and making arbitrary appointments”, and let off with a warning.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.