Nairobi — Lands Secretary Charity Ngilu says she will not allow the National Lands Commission to derail her efforts to solve the land problem in the country.
Ngilu who was appearing before the Lands Committee of the National Assembly said that she has a target of issuing three million title deeds before the end of this year.
She clarified that the titles which were issued out by the President last week dated back to the 60s and 80s, but they will soon start issuing out their own titles to solve the land wrangles in the country.
"NLC must accept that they are not the ones to make land decisions, because I have a manifesto to fulfil and I will not allow the ministry to be derailed, I know they are a constitutional commission but if they don't want to go my way, I tell them to move aside," Ngilu asserted before the House team.
"I can tell you, if land reforms fail, people won't say it is the commission that has failed, it will be Ngilu who has failed; President Kenyatta has failed so I must protect what I must protect."
National Land Commission Chairman Mohamed Swazuri had cautioned government officials that his commission has the sole authority to allocate public land.
"It should be understood that under the Land Act and the Constitution, it is only the National Land Commission which is mandated, on behalf of the national or county government, to allocate public land, and even to sanction conversion of the public land to any other category," he clarified in a notice.
The eight month-old constitutional commission has not been enjoying a flowery relationship with its parent ministry. This came to the fore when former Lands Permanent Secretary Dorothy Angote attempted to relocate them from the ministry's headquarters at Nairobi's Ardhi House after they clashed over their roles.
Ngilu told the House team that she was irked by the commission's interpretation of the Article 65 of the Constitution after the commission placed an advert in the newspapers in June calling on all foreigners to surrender copies of their title deeds to the commission within 60 days; which claimed had caused jitters amongst investors and some companies.
"I have tried to call back two statements by the commission because I am saying that is not the position. We need to speak with one voice on the issue of land whose lease has lapsed. The minute you say, that once the lease has lapsed, the land reverts back to the people, people will move in. How you will deal with that," she asked?
"You have got to be very sensitive with issues to deal with land; for me that is the only thing, I am saying to him don't make such statements they can cause war and bloodshed."
She cited Swazuri's remarks during public baraza attended by the President, where he told the crowd that the commission will allocate 'expired land' in the neighbourhood.
In the June 14 advertisement, Swazuri said the commission had been mandated to find out who owns land in the country and on what basis. "The constitutions article 65 says that foreigners can only own land on a leasehold basis capped at 99 years."
The commission also explained that new leases will commence from the August 2010 when the new constitution was promulgated and will be issued for a maximum period of 99 years. People with old titles whether freehold or on lease, have to submit copies of their titles to the NLC so that they can get the new leases. If the lease has expired, they are eligible for an extension.
However, Swazuri pointed out that renewals or extensions will depend on fulfilment of conditions laid down.
Ngilu also asked the political leaders and civil rights groups to avoid politicizing government efforts to eradicate the squatter problem, and challenged them to give Kenyans an account of what they did to address the issue of landlessness when they held the dockets in government.
The Cabinet Secretary said the legislation governing land management allows a guarantee of automatic renewal or extension of the old leases and when the new leases will commence.
"In fact, I want to go and speak to Orengo (Lands Minister under the grand coalition government) and ask him for what reason did he not issue this title," she posed. "There are 250,000 adjudicated lands and settlement schemes which are all waiting there to be rolled out; so isn't that the first thing we are supposed to do give this people there land and they move on."
The government has issued 60,000 title deeds to Coast residents in a move to address the squatter problem there.