THE government will pay a Vihiga man Sh500,000 for trespassing on his land 12 years ago. Three Court of Appeal judges said Nelson Ravaza, then the sub-chief of Imanda sub-location, abused his authority by opening an access road on a piece of land belonging to Reuben Okungu without his consent.
The case had been dismissed seven years ago by a Kisumu judge but Okungu's son, Wycliffe Sayia, filed an appeal. Court records show that Okungu and a neighbour, Joel Kayeri, had been wrangling over an access road the former had allegedly blocked.
Kayeri raised the matter with the district lands officer, who allegedly instructed the sub chief to oversee the opening of the access road. The access road was opened on September 19, 2000 by a surveyor. But as the road was being opened, Okungu was away in Nairobi. He said that the chief and the persons present cut down 152 trees, some of which were taken by the neighbour. Okungu moved to court and sued the neighbour, the chief, the surveyor and the Attorney General. Justice Barbara Tanui, however, dismissed the case in 2005.
And after appealing, Justices Alnashir Visram, Martha Koome and Hannah Okwengu said that there was nothing to justify the conclusion of the trial judge of the existence of the road, before Okungu allegedly blocked it. And even assuming that the access road was initially there, the judges said the chief and other respondents could not take the law into their hands and purport to open the access road. "There was need to follow the law by involving appropriate authorities for determination of the respondents' claim or the boundaries, and if necessary, obtain an order for opening the access road," said the Judges.
The judges said it was a clear case where a neighbour wrongly uses the provincial administration in a civil dispute. They said that since the chief and the surveyors were acting in their official capacity, the Attorney General was liable on behalf of the government for their actions. "We find that the evidence adduced was sufficient to establish that the respondents trespassed onto the suit property and destroyed tress,' said the court. The court awarded Sayia Sh315,840 for the destroyed trees and Sh200,000 for general damages for the trespass.