Kenya’s rapacious land cartels have sliced off 300 acres from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in an audacious move that poses threat to the facility’s expansion requirements and security of aircraft.
The infraction is seen as the handiwork of well-connected individuals working in cahoots with rogue officers at the Kenya Airports Authority, the custodians of the more than 4,600 acres of land and sanctity of East Africa’s largest and busiest airport.
Documents in our possession show the companies and individuals’ allocated land, (L.R.No. 21919), belonging to the JKIA whose expansion is now in jeopardy— and tragically some of the grabbed lands include sensitive sections such as the flight path. It will be recalled that the recently launched direct flights by Kenya Airways to the US dubbed a breakthrough to the national carrier was subjected to intense and prolonged security and suitability scrutiny.
Our investigations have established through the records at the Registrar of Companies, that out of the 57 companies allocated the land, only eight are bona fide while the rest are briefcase entities used to swindle KAA.
And characteristically, the KAA has remained mute to the constant pressure and prodding by the Public Investments Committee (PIC) to produce the documents confirming the land “sale.”
The cartels have also spread their deadly tentacles to other airport space across the country. For instance, at Wilson Airport, Nairobi, which has suffered the worst invasion, a number of commercial developments already ring the facility and stand in the flight path, including warehouses and a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) plant rendering the safety of passengers at the city’s busiest airport on the lap of divine providence.
According to National Land Commission acting chairperson Abigael Mbagaya, the grabbing of the airports must be stopped. She said the commission is ready to expose the owners to the parliamentary committee “as soon as it is requested”. A list seen by People Daily, has some 57 firms and individuals in the airports land grabbing frenzy according to NLC.
JKIA, Kenya’s largest airport that serves an average of 19,000 passengers daily, is the worst hit with more than half the total number of grabbed plots originally belonging to it.
According to the documents, the land excised from the JKIA land have been allocated to third parties and titles issued, including parts of the land occupied by its cargo apron (LR NO 22405).
The apron is a section of the airport where planes are loaded and offloaded, and should the private owners who have titles move to claim it, operations at Africa’s ninth busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers could be greatly disrupted.
It is unclear how land in such a sensitive section of the airport changed hands, but a source at KAA says most of the land was reallocated through underhand dealings between corrupt officials in the Ministry of Land and land cartels with the backing of politicians.
Attracted by the large tracts of empty land within airport perimeters, the voracious cartels illegally acquired land owned by seven other airports, denying them space for crucial functions such as aircraft parking, expansion and runway extension.
The Auditor General in his report, says that KAA cannot account for part of its land estimated at about Sh5.7 billion. This value may escalate as an audit revealed that some parcels of land claimed by the agency do not have the necessary documentation and have not been valued, while others have not been measured to determine size and value.