Activist Okiya Omtatah
Anti-Corruption Commission
Land Economics
Ministry of Education
Ministry of Lands
Muhammad Swazuri
National Land Commission
Reconciliation Report
Supreme Court
The Truth Justice
University of Nairobi
When National Land Commission

Muhammad Swazuri: Land boss in the eye of the storm

National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri could be in trouble over some of actions or inaction while in office.

Muhammad Swazuri: Land boss in the eye of the storm

Land has always been one of the most politically sensitive topics in Kenya and a complex one for that matter. From ownership to administration and tenure, it remains a thorn in the flesh as Kenyans seek to address the problems associated with it.The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Report noted that there is a close link between land injustices and ethnic violence in Kenya. Land related injustices took many forms such as illegal takeover of individual and community land by public and private institutions, illegally hiving off public land and trust lands, the TJRC report said.There is also the question of preferring a specific ethnic group to benefit from settlement schemes, at the expense of others, who were more deserving and forcibly settling a community outside its homeland as well as eviction and land grabbing by government officials.

When National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri took office in 2013, Kenyans hoped that the newly established agency would bring to an end the myriad of problems associated with land and at the same time protect public land.On the TJRC report, NLC was identified in the implementation matrix as a focal player in furthering investigations of alleged illegal or irregular acquisition of land, the survey, demarcation and registration of public land adjudication and registration of land.But five years later, the Commission appears stuck where it began as problems persist. And now, Prof Swazuri, the chairman, could be in trouble over some of actions or inaction while in office.The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission recommended that Prof Swazuri and 25 others be prosecuted in relation to the payment of Sh1.5 billion to some companies for land acquired by the ministry of Education in Nairobi.The EACC has been investigating the compulsory acquisition of land in a city suburb for two schools, and believe these payments were fraudulent because the land in question had been set aside for public utility.Activist Okiya Omtatah has also filed contempt of court proceedings, after the NLC paid Sh1.5 billion as part of Sh3.3 billion compensation for the land. According to Mr Omtatah, the payment was made in deliberate and contemptuous violation of a court order issued in December 2016.Prof Swazuri, an associate professor of Land Economics, holds a Master of Arts in Housing Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Land Economics all from the University of Nairobi.When he was appointed the first chairman of the NLC, many believed that a man with wide knowledge on land matters, Prof Swazuri would slay the dragon that is land grabbing in Kenya and stop dubious compensations.The EACC has also recorded some 276 complaints against the NLC, 71 of them on compensation.The NLC chairman had previously served as a commissioner of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC).In May last year, the anti-corruption agency raided the homes of Prof Swazuri and other senior NLC officials as part of a probe into claims that land owners in the Standard Gauge Railway project were irregularly compensated. The EACC found Sh17 million cash in the home of an NLC commissioner during the raid.Before Prof Swazuri and the Commission settled in office, there were turf wars with the parent Ministry of Lands.It was not until the Commission moved to the Supreme Court and sought an advisory opinion that the fights stopped.Among the matters being tussled over were whether land registration is a function of the NLC or the ministry.A bench of five judges ruled on December 2, 2015, that the NLC had a mandate in respect of various processes leading to the registration of land, but neither the Constitution nor statute law gave it the power to register land titles.The task, the judges said, lay with the national government and the ministry had the authority to issue land titles.The judges further stated that the roles of the two do not overlap. As the ministry conducts its functions, the NLC acts as a regulator to ensure compliance with the Constitution and with legislation.

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