Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
National Land Commission (NLC) chairperson Muhammad Swazuri has defended as “above board” Sh1.5 billion payment for land in which two Nairobi schools sit.
Controversy has shrouded the government’s move to commit Sh3.2 billion for the land hosting Ruaraka High and Drive Inn Primary schools in the city. The government paid Sh1.5 billion and the pending Sh1.7 billion was to be paid later, when the owner kicked up a storm.
In a press briefing at the commission’s headquarters, an agitated Swazuri declared he was ready to appear before any investigative body to defend the payment.
“Even if we are asked to go to The Hague, we shall go and defend ourselves because we have all the facts. Due diligence has been followed,” he said, adding: “For the record, we have not paid Sh3.2 billion as most of you are saying. We have only paid Sh1.5 billion as part payment.”
So angry was Swazuri that he told journalist in his office that he would not respond to any more queries and declared the briefing over. “What is this saga that you are talking about. There is no saga here,” he said.
Earlier, Swazuri confirmed that detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) have been investigating the matter. He maintained all procedures were followed when the compensation was made for the 13.5-acre land. He added that seven government departments, including office of the Attorney General, okayed the payments.
“We paid the person whom we think is the right owner. There are seven sources that have confirmed so. What do you want us to do?” he asked.
“It’s true we have been investigated by EACC. We have even recorded statements to that effect. As to whether this matter has gone to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), we do not know.”
Swazuri said the commission paid for the land following a directive from Education ministry.
“The owner is allowed by the law to present his own figures and he gave us Sh368 million per acre, but we did our own search and we settled for Sh206 million per acre. If there was any collusion this would not have happened,” he said.
“We approved payment of Sh3.2 billion, shida nini? kosa ni gani (where is the problem)?” The payments were made to Hueland and Afrison Import Export Ltd owned by businessmen Francis Mburu.
His sentiments came at a time when the EACC revealed it will be prosecuting two NLC commissions over misuse of funds.
And last week, National Assembly Lands Committee, which has been investigating the Ruaraka land matter, directed the Director of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti to investigate Swazuri, his commissioners and other staff over the payment.
The committee also wants Swazuri, commissioners, the National Treasury and EACC to take personal responsibility for the controversial payout.