Nairobi — A company linked to Defence minister Njenga Karume was paid Sh169 million by the Government for the purchase of a farm in Molo to resettle people it evicted from Likia Forest and others affected by land clashes.
The transaction, involving three portions of land in Elburgon, Nakuru district, and totalling about 1,000 acres was concluded last June, the Nation has established. Mr Karume himself said yesterday there was nothing fishy about the transaction as everything was done in a transparent manner.
"It was a willing buyer and a willing seller and records are there to prove there were no short-cuts taken or overpricing," Mr Karume said.
It emerged that Mr Karume approached the ministry of Lands and Settlement mid last year, offering to sell the land in Turi area. He had initially offered to sell the farms, which he has been using to rear dairy cattle, for Sh250,000 per acre but the Government valuation put the value at Sh159,000 per acre, which the company did not contest. The parcels are listed as L.R 9060 Kivulini, L.R 9062 Kati Kati and L.R 9696 Molo Highlands.
The funds to pay the minister came from the Settlement Fund Trustees (SFT) which buys land to settle the landless on loan basis.
The firm, Karume Investments, got Sh72 million for Kivulini, Sh48 million for Kati Kati and Sh49 million for Molo Highlands.
Lands minister Kivutha Kibwana cautioned people against politicising the transaction which, he said, the Government had undertaken to put an end to bloody land conflicts in the area.
"Let people not bring siasa (politics) where people are dying," Prof Kibwana said on telephone from his Makueni home. The director of Settlement and Land Adjudication, Mrs Lilian Njenga, said the ministry bought the farms with the express authority of attorney-general Amos Wako, the director of Government procurements and the ministerial Tender Committee.
Mrs Njenga said Mr Karume's farms were part of three portions that the Government had identified for the resettlement programme after the owners offered them for sale.
The other two, she said, were in Mau Narok and measured 756 acres and 320 acres respectively. The Government will buy them at Sh100,000 per acre, which means the Government will spend Sh106.7 million on them.
Mrs Njenga said the deal could be sealed any time now as sale agreements were being written.
The land was acquired by the government for the re-settlement of 318 people who had been previously allocated land in the controversial Likia Extension Settlement Scheme.
Those evicted from Eburu and Mau forest by the Government were expected to be the beneficiaries, she said.
The director gave a breakdown of the countrywide resettlement programme which she said would cost the Government over Sh2 billion. The Government, Mrs Njenga said, had identified the Chakama Ranch in Malindi, three portions in Kwale, two in Mombasa and one each in Taita Taveta and Kilifi for the resettlement of the landless. Other areas where land had been identified for the programme were Thika, Laikipia, Nandi and Nyando districts.
Her department, she said, was waiting for the release of the report on the task force appointed by President Kibaki to establish the exact number of tribal clashes victims and those evicted by the Government from forests.
"Some politicians have been complaining that the Government was slow in resettling deserving people but ironically, they are the ones who fail to submit to us the list of their deserving people," she said.
Yesterday, some Molo leaders asked the government to provide full details regarding the land transaction "for the purposes of transparency and accountability".
"We would want to know for how much the land was purchased and the amount paid by the minister to the government as stamp duty. This will clear any doubts we could be having," one of the leaders said.
Similar sentiments were expressed by an assistant minister who demanded that the government explain how it arrived at the decision to purchase Mr Karume's land.
We would want to know if there was any advertisement asking Kenyans with huge pieces of land to offer them for sale to the government and at what price, the assistant minister said. He did not want to be named because of his relations with the minister.
In June, Finance minister Amos Kimunya set aside Sh400 million in his Budget statement for the resettlement of squatters across the country.
The assistant minister added: "We would also want to know how much of the Sh400 million was spent to purchase the land and how the government intends to spend the balance."
The minister is said to have bought the land in 1970s from the Agricultural Development Corporation. A neighbour said the land was in three portions, each with a separate title deed.
Residents of Elburgon area told the Nation that the minister had been using the land for dairy and wheat farming.
A local land dealer said that the market value for an acre of land in Turi area where the minister's farm is situated ranged between Sh150,000 and Sh180,000. The land dealer added that the minister had offered the land for sale two years ago but it did not attract any buyer.
"At the time, the minister was selling the land as Sh160,000 per acre which means the whole portion would have fetched an estimated Sh160 million," the land dealer said.
Meanwhile, the beneficiaries of the Likia Extension Settlement Scheme are opposed to the government move to settle them on the land, saying it was not arable as it was located in a hilly and rocky place.
The beneficiaries further claim that some people were presenting fake documents to the committee formed to oversee their resettlement.