NAIROBI Progress on part of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Mega project has been halted by the High Court in a land compensation dispute pitting the government against landowners.
Owners of a company Miritini Free Port have gone to court, claiming that the government has compulsorily acquired their 91-hectare piece of land but has so far not paid them any compensation. The land is valued at KES1.4 billion.
A High Court in Mombasa last Friday, stopped construction of the railway after the owners of Miritini Free Port argued that the project infringed on their constitutional rights to ownership of land and fair compensation.
Miritini has sued Kenya’s Attorney-General, Kenya Railways Corporation, National Land Commission, and China Road and Bridge Corporation (Kenya) Limited, the last who are the contractors building the railway, one of Kenya’s most expensive projects.
Owners of the company said they learnt through a Kenya Gazette notice in January last year that the government planned to compulsorily acquire the 91-hectare piece of land in Miritini, Mombasa. At the time, the petitioner says, plans were under way to build a container handling depot on the property.
The National Land Commission valued the piece of land at Sh1.4 billion, and on December 23, 2015, the owners accepted the valuation and provided their bank details to facilitate payment.
“Since then,” argue the petitioners, “(we have) made numerous follow ups, specifically with Kenya Railways Corporation and the National Land Commission, including writing letters demanding payment of the award, but to date, no response has been forthcoming from them.”
Despite the delays in disbursement of the compensation, the contractor has moved onto the property to clear the way for the railway line.
The petitioners argue that the continued withholding of compensation exposes their company to “economic losses” as they hope to invest the awarded sum in a similar project elsewhere”, and that the delay “is having an adverse effect on the investors”.
Halting construction on any of the sections of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway might have an impact on the completion date of the project which is Jubilee’s flagship venture according to Daily Nation.
Project Affected Persons (PAP) in Kenya have been at loggerheads with government over compensation delays on the SGR Mombasa-Nairobi upgrade, which according to the Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta was expected to be complete by June 2017.
Experts say, such halting due to non-compliance with the compensation framework would delay the project.
According to Daily Nation, a source at Kenya Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media, said there were concerns that politicians were influencing petitions against the project for personal gain.
“They could be bankrolling the petitioners in the hope that they will get a cut from compensation money disbursed to landowners,” he said. “Or to simply frustrate the government project.”
Source: Daily Nation