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January 21, 2019

CLEMENT MUGA: Swazuri should just keep away

National Land Commission Chairman Muhamed Swazuri during a seminar with land commissioners at Panafric hotel yesterday. photo/PATRICK VIDIJA
National Land Commission Chairman Muhamed Swazuri during a seminar with land commissioners at Panafric hotel yesterday. photo/PATRICK VIDIJA

Besieged National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri and other suspended commissioners should not be allowed back to office.

Allowing them back would be an insult to Kenyans. They have already taken a plea in court and should allow the case to proceed to conclusion.

The magistrate’s court erred by saying Swazuri can access his former office only if the commission’s CEO authorises him. In a ruling delivered over a week ago, anti-corruption court chief magistrate Lawrence Mugambi said Swazuri could only go back after writing a letter to the CEO.

Kenya does not have a shortage of professionals who can replace Swazuri and his co-accused. There are many people who can serve the commission better than Swazuri.

Even if Swazuri argued that he is a state officer and his tenure at the NLC is secured by law, he should not be allowed back. He has a criminal case to answer together with his co-accused.

It is alleged they conspired to pay extra millions as compensation for irregularly acquired public land. The prosecution alleges that Swazuri conspired to commit crimes that led to the loss of Sh222 million of public funds, in payment for three parcels of land belonging to Kenya Railways.

It will be a great honour if Swazuri actually fights these claims in court and wins before thinking of going back to the commission.

Swazuri and his co-accused CEO Tom Chavangi, directors Salome Munubi, Francis Mugo, and Gladys Muyanga, licensed surveyor Obadiah Wainaina and Kenya Railways MD Atanas Maina should not set foot at the NLC.

If Swazuri is allowed to return, the commission would probably sink and will not achieve its mandate in the last minutes of its tenure because he will not work but will be fighting to clear his name.

There is a likelihood he could tamper with incriminating evidence. The feel-good moment and the new lease on life the commission is enjoying will be over.

If he returns, the remaining commissioners may not effectively deliver on their mandate, seeing as he has already accused vice chairperson Abigael Mbagaya of bias. His return is likely to be an encumbrance to the commission as the public has probably lost its trust in him.

As things stand, the acting chairperson should be allowed to continue with operations and steer the NLC since, after all, its mandate ends on February 19, 2019.

The NLC derives its mandate from the Constitution, the National Land Policy ( 2009 ) and Acts of Parliament — the National Land Commission (NLC) Act, the Land Act and the Land Registration Act — all of 2012.

The NLC will release and disclose all public inquiry reports since 2013. Besides, the commission is well constituted and fully functioning.

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