Kenya: DPP Orders Probe Into Building Approvals on Riparian Lands

A bulldozer pulls down a section of Java House and Shell petrol station in Kileleshwa on August 6, 2018.

Nairobi — The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has ordered the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate circumstances under which proprietors of properties built on riparian land were issued with construction approvals.

In a statement issued Thursday evening, Haji directed the probe team to submit progress reports and police files every 21 days in the course of the investigation.

"In consultation with the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Keriako Tobiko, I have directed the DCI to immediately commence comprehensive investigations to establish the circumstances, the procedures and persons who irregularly and/or illegally issued the approvals for the construction of any building or structure on riparian land," Haji said.

The directive came hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta declared that officials involved in the approval of properties built on riparian land must be punished.

Speaking during the official opening of the Prism Towers along Third Ngong Avenue, the Head of State said State agencies will sustain ongoing demolitions of buildings erected on wetlands as the government aims at discouraging irregular acquisition of land.

"We will continue to demolish properties constructed on riparian lands, equally punish officials who made approvals for those properties," the President stated.

He said the move to reclaim riparian land on which buildings have been erected is aimed at discouraging corrupt acquisition of land in the ongoing purge against graft.

President Kenyatta noted that his administration was keen on winning the war against corruption adding that it is possible to do business in Kenya within the law.

"We are doing everything to discourage corruption. It is possible to do clean business in Kenya, this is what we want to encourage," he observed.

Kenyatta's statement came a day after the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) demolished the Southend Mall at the Lang'ata-Mbagathi Road roundabout, the Sh2 billion property sitting atop the Mutuini-Ngong River.

Following Wednesday's demolition, proprietors of the Ukay Centre in Westlands moved to court seeking conservatory orders to stop an impending demolition.

The property sits on riparian land close to River Kinagare.

The property's Managing Director Bimal Shah told the court all laws safeguarding riparian land had been observed with the recommended distance from the river adhered to.

The petitioners produced in court documents dating back to 2012 citing Justice David Majanja's ruling on July 24 quashing an attempt to have the title for the property revoked on grounds that Ukay Centre had encroached on a riparian land.

According to the petitioners, they had been notified of an impending demolition on May 23 and July 6.

The court declined to block the demolition pending the case.

Prior to the demolition of Southend Mall on Wednesday, NEMA bulldozers flattened a Java coffee outlet and Shell filling station in Kileleshwa. An official report by the agency released late in June had shown the two businesses were within thirty metres of Nairobi River.

The June 26 report recommended levelling of at least 10 properties among them Southend Mall and Ukay Centre.

On April 15, the Intergovernmental Committee on the Regeneration of Nairobi co-chaired by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala agreed to undertake a wide-range of programmes among them beatification of the city and reclamation of wetlands.

The Sonko-Balala team was to, within a month, roll out a clean-up exercise of the Nairobi River and ensure an efficient garbage collection system is adopted in all the 85 electoral wards in the city.

The team was also mandated with the resolution of hectic traffic snarl-ups, which cost the city in the excess of Sh2 billion annually.

To resolve the traffic menace, the regeneration team recommended car-free days for Westlands and the Central Business District as well as the rollout of a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system, which was to be preceded with the availability

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