Kenya: Court Stops Sh1 Billion Payout for Four SGR Landowners

25 November 2020

Landowners whose parcels the government forcefully acquired to build the standard gauge railway (SGR) may have to wait a little longer to be paid after the appellate court put brakes on compensation plans.

The court has suspended an earlier directive that required the National Land Commission (NLC) to compensate the four landowners following a finding by the High Court that they were unfairly left out of the payment made by the agency in 2015.

Court of Appeal judges Asike Makhandia , Fatuma Sichale and Jamila Mohamed have halted the compensation , which is in excess of Sh1 billion pending the outcome of an appeal the NLC intends to file against a High Court decision that directed it to pay the landowners. The decision was in relation to two plots, whose ownership the four have been claiming.

The judges agreed with the land agency that the more than Sh1 billion compensation being sought by the four landowners is by all standards a colossal amount of money that may be difficult to recover in the event that the appeal succeeds.

Ability to pay

"The respondents are private citizens with no known sources of income or assets, nor have they demonstrated their ability to repay the amount in the event the intended appeal succeeds. We are persuaded that the appeal will be rendered nugatory in the event that stay orders are not granted," the judges said.

The NLC has been directed to file the appeal within 45 days, or risk having the order annulled.

Mombasa Resident Judge Eric Ogola last year ordered the NLC to pay Theresia Runji, Marieta Gitonga Chege, Naomi Kiio and Sammy Kara after finding that they were unfairly left out when Miritini Free Port Limited, an interested party in the case, was paid Sh1.4 billion.

The judge faulted the agency for failing to include the four in the payout or consider their interest, noting that such a decision was unconstitutional as the landowners were not heard before it was reached.

Justice Ogola directed the NLC to tabulate, asses and compensate the four the value of their two properties as at the date of the acquisition plus interest at commercial rates.

Double compensation

The court also found out that the agency had always been aware of the respondents' claimed interest on the land, yet they were not served with a notice informing them of the government's intention to compulsorily acquire it.

But aggrieved by the directive, NLC rushed to the Court of Appeal to block the payment, raising claims of double compensation.

In its appeal papers, NLC argued that Justice Ogola had no jurisdiction to hear the petition relating to title to land, compulsory acquisition of land, assessment and payment of compensation.

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