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State mulls law to allay compensation disputes

Dinah Ondari @dinahoondari

Blocking key government infrastructural projects through courts may soon become impossible if a proposed law sails though Parliament.

The Land Value Index Bill, among other provisions, seeks to block courts from giving orders to halt multi-billion-shilling government infrastructural projects over land compensation disputes.

Other provisions in the bill include a clause that will make it difficult for wheeler-dealers and land speculators to get insider information on land earmarked for such mega projects

However, the Council of Governors wants the bill amended for the issue of compensation, especially where the government forcibly acquires land, dealt by as a stand alone law.

The proposal by CoG lands committee chair and Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was supported by senators Abshiro Halakhe (Nominated) and Jones Mwaruma (Taita Taveta) who argued that although compensation is the most important aspect of project management, it is always the least prioritised.

Taking the example of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), Halakhe said the delay in compensating some of the land owners was not because of the weakness or lack of the law, but poor decision making.

“Delay in compensation is an abuse of the rights of the land owners because out of the Sh360 billion used to implement the SGR only Sh60 billion was for compensation,” said Mwarume.

Waititu said the current process was unfair to land owners affected by compulsory acquisition. “Many people have been left destitute once they surrender their land to the government for development. It is the view of the council that land owners should be compensated before they surrender their land,” he said.

The Bill seeks to amend the Land Act, the Land Registration Act and the Prevention, Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Act.

It also vests the power to make decisions on land compensation on a proposed Land Acquisition Tribunal.

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