Lands CS Karoney extends land registries lockdown

Thursday, April 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Ardhi House, Nairobi.

Tens of thousands of property transactions have been halted for a fortnight following the decision by the Ministry of Land to extend the closure of all land registries across the country.

Lands Cabinet secretary Farida Karoney, through a public notice appearing in one of the dailies, said that land registries countrywide will remain closed for another 14 days following advice from the National Emergency Response Committee on the management of Covid-19.

“In compliance with the Presidential directive on the management and mitigation of Covid-19, (we) scaled down operations last month.  The ministry wishes to communicate that all registries and land offices will remain closed for a further 14 days…,” read the statement.

Loss of business

Nelson Osiemo, a High Court advocate, said the decision could not have come at a worse time.

“As a lawyer, I am paid when I deliver a title to a client. To do so, I must follow the necessary steps with the lands registry at the ministry of lands.

The closure of the registry means that we cannot undertake all the necessary due diligence procedures to register, certify or transfer titles. It effectively means that we cannot trade,” said Osiemo.

The announcement adds to the pain of those engaged in real estate businesses, who for the better part of the year, have witnessed a backlog of transactions pile up after the ministry undertook a similar closure of the registry in what it said was to give a chance for digitisation of records.

In the first instance, the Ministry of Lands advertised in the local dailies that it would close the registry for an audit process that would take three weeks. 

This prompted the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) to go to court and had the directive suspended.

The second closure of land registries came through a gazette notice after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered for the scaling down of all government operations in a bid to tame the coronavirus pandemic and was to expire last week.

Supply chain

The idea of digitising land records and transactions has been fronted for almost 10 years since the Japanese government offered to foot the bill for the process. 

Digitised land records will offer an opportunity in the security of titles through a fool proof blockchain technology to ensure no titles are duplicated.

“We understand what is going on but let the Ministry of Lands also put themselves in our positions.

There is a whole supply chain from brokers to property owners whose families depend on the functioning of the registry. Even as they scale down, let essential services continue,” said Osiemo.

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