Kenya Railways digs in for SGR land billions
Kenya Railways has asked the High Court to compel the National Lands Commission (NLC) to disclose all monies paid for land compensation under the Standard Gauge Railway project (SGR). In a judicial review application filed before Lady Justice Pauline Nyamweya Kenya Railways Corporation is seeking to know unpaid amount as well and the challenges the commission is facing in making payments. Through lawyer Peter Munge of MMC Africa Law, Kenya Railways argues that the matter is of national importance and any delays in settling compensations would affect a big number of people. The push for disclosure comes amid talk of scandal in compensations, where the value of land was inflated. NLC senior officials have been charged with manipulating compensation figures and illegally paying millions of shillings to individuals presenting dubious documents during construction of Phase One of the Sh327 billion Standard Gauge Railway line. While the government had projected to spend Sh3.8 billion on land compensation in the SGR project, the first phase from Miritini to Embakasi consumed Sh30 billion, or 10 times the original budget. “Timelines on the completion of the payments was agreed upon in a multi-agency meeting and I believe that the deadline was set for payment of compensation to land owners,” Mr Munge told the Court. “The commission needs to understand the urgency of the matter given that part of the corridor has been taken up by the contractors.” NLC argues that partial payments had been made but due process was slowing the process down. “We are aware of the urgency of the matter given the public interest but the commission is not in a position to respond on the timelines on the payments. We have made some payments and in fact the remaining amount is about Ksh6 billion. Making the payments requires a process and some of these matters are in court and that is why it is taking time,” NLC argued. Kenya Railways agrees that indeed NLC had made some payments but only after being provoked by the suit filed against them. Lady Justice Pauline Nyamweya had set the date for the next mention to be February 13, 2019. This comes shortly after Kenya Railways took the National Lands Commission to court over delay in paying 1,090 landowners a total of Ksh17.7 billion meant for land compensation that has caused delays in some parts of the corridor for the Nairobi-Naivasha line. It is understood that NLC officials have been armtwisting beneficiaries for kickbacks. Kenya Railways had argued that the National Lands Commission had received the compensation money from the National Treasury from between October 26, 2018 to December 2018 but had failed to remit the money to the affected land owners without any just reasons despite approval of the compensation schedules by different Government agencies. Kenya Railways then moved to court to compel NLC to make the payments to affected land owners over fears that compensation would delay completion of the Standard Gauge Railway which is set for 31stMay, 2019.