Perennial land grabbing hampers Thika town growth
There is little space available for public development projects in Thika town, Kiambu county, following a high demand for land.
Perennial grabbing of land and theft of public utilities in the busy town has seen residents suffer from lack of major construction projects.
Completion of the 40km Thika Road in 2012 was seen as the new dawn for establishment of factories, schools, churches, hospitals, police stations and recreational facilities, among other institutions, for public use.
This has, however, remained a daydream for residents in the formerly industrious town once called ‘the Birmingham of Kenya’ due to its many factories, due to land grabbing.
While leaders have been trumpeting against the vice, the daring grabbers have made a niche in the seemingly well-orchestrated plot to deny the public a good life.
The grabbers work in cahoots with land registry and other civil servants, police officers, land brokers and surveyors.
Most affected is Ngoingwa, a modern housing estate in the outskirts of Thika town.
The village has one public primary school —Kisiwa Primary — which also lacks space for expansion.
The estate has no secondary school, forcing learners to travel far in search of education.
More than 60-acres of public land meant for construction of a secondary school and a police station has been grabbed.
Thika town MCA, Andrew Kimani, says planners are to blame for the widespread theft of public land at the village.
“More than 60 acres meant for construction of a hospital, a market and public schools has been lost.
I sued the grabbers and in liaison with National Lands Commission (NLC), we have managed to repossess 40 acres, which we are expecting will be titled soonest,” he said.
At Thika Water and Sewerage Company (Thiwasco), five-acres meant for expansion of water reservoirs to cushion residents from water scarcity is also reported to have been grabbed.
Already, beacons have been put in place while the ‘owners’ have allegedly commenced construction in some parts of the compound.
“The water provider, which serves over 300,000 residents daily, has been unable to meet water demands courtesy of lack of land for expansion,” said Kimani.
The company’s managing director Joshua Kinya says on-going water rationing in Thika town will continue until new water storage and distribution facilities are constructed.
“Grabbers have caused us enough suffering, but we will not allow them to pass the vice to new generations,” Kimani, threatening to mobilise Thika town residents to fence the entire Thiwasco compound and force out the grabbers.
Speaking during a water clinic in the town recently, Kiambu County Assembly chairman for Water, Sanitation and Natural Resources Lawrence Gitau and Witeithie MCA Julius Macharia said all public land in the hands of fraudsters must be returned to pave way water structures.
“We will pursue zero tolerance in theft of public land. We must improve water capacities to caution Thika residents from recurrent water rationing now that population of this town continues to rise,” said Gitau.
He said that whereas the county has increased the county’s water budget from Sh525 million to Sh1 billion shillings, development of water storage and treatment structures will be impossible without enough land for expansion.
More alarming to residents of Thika is that the grabbers still poses hundreds of illegal title deeds, which they process and later use them to hoodwink gullible land buyers.
Failure to expunge the illegal ownership documents means the grabbers can dispose plots to third parties.
Worse, a complacent government regime could later regularise the documents in future, denying residents vital public services.
According to Thika MP Patrick Wainaina, the constituency has written to the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning to establish a land clinic in the area to clean that rot that has seen hundreds conned, others killed, houses demolished in constant theft of public land.
Wainaina said the clinic could also be used to sort out Thika resident’s land while addressing multiple allocations, fraud and disputes associated with rogue land buying companies.
In the letter seen by Boma, Wainaina says Thika has had an upsurge of land-related ownership disputes that have led to unending conflicts.
“We believe the proposed land clinic will assist to assess the ownership status of diverse parcels of land with disputes, especially in populous estates,” says the MP.
“There has been increasing complaints from members of public on grabbing of public land in many parts of constituency neighbourhoods such as township area, Kisii, Kiganjo and Kiang’ombe,” Wainaina says in the letter, adding that members of the public have also been complaining of green cards at Thika Lands registry leading to delay in land searches.
Residents of Thika have been calling on the CS in charge of Lands, Farida Karoney, to expedite re-profiling of land buying companies to audit their operations as most of them have been connected with the land grabbing menace.
Launching a land clinic in Ruiru last year, Karoney ordered re-profiling of all land buying and selling firms in the entire Kiambu County to weed out fraudsters who have been defrauding residents.