FOREST LAND

Reprieve for Ngong Road Forest homeowners after House team calls for talks with state

The committee says 34 acres on which some estate are situated were illegally acquired

In Summary

• The House team said negotiations will help in the realisation of the Big Four agenda on housing and stop further encroachment of Ngong Road Forest.

• However, it found that the law was followed in respect of 132 acres on which Sunvalley I, II and III and Royal Park estates are situated.

Royal Park chairman Abdi Zeila at the estate on June 29, 2020. Image: PHOTO/ENOS TECHE
Royal Park chairman Abdi Zeila at the estate on June 29, 2020. Image: PHOTO/ENOS TECHE

A parliamentary committee has recommended that property owners on 34 acres of Ngong Road Forest negotiate with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry since their occupancy is unlawful.

The Departmental Committee on Environment and Natural Resources says in a report tabled on Tuesday that the law was not followed in the allocation of the 34 acres.

However, it found that the law was followed in respect of 132 acres on which Sunvalley I, II and III and Royal Park estates are situated.

"The committee finds that the law relating to declaration that an area shall cease to be a forest area was not followed with respect to  34 acres where KMA Estate, Lang'ata Gardens Estate, Lang'ata View Estate, Shalom Estate, St Mary’s Hospital and Forest Edge/View estates are located."

The team said the law should be complied with and the recommended negotiation will help in the realisation of the Big Four agenda on housing and stop further encroachment of Ngong Road Forest.

Residents of Sunvalley I, II and III estates, Royal Park, KMA, Shalom  and Forest Edge View estates have been occupying the land for over two decades. 

The estimated value of the development and the degazetted land is  Sh43 billion.

"The subsisting landowners are first-time homeowners, who are servicing bank loans and mortgages from various institutions. There is a need to protect these homeowners, some of whom are pensioners who have invested their life savings in building these homes," the Kareke Mbiuki-led committee reported.

Its investigation was prompted by a petition from Lang'ata MP Nixon Korir on behalf of residents of Sunvalley Phases I, II and III, Royal Park, KMA, Shalom and Forest View estates after the Environment and Forestry CS Keriako Tobiko gave them a quit notice. 

Korir said over 6,000 households were resident in the estates. 

 

The committee, which investigates, inquires into and reports on all matters relating to environment management and conservation of forests,cautioned the ministry against threatening residents, owners or proprietors of developments in the 132 acres as they had complied with the law.

It recommended that the Director of Criminal Investigations probes the procedure used in excising and allocating land from Ngong Road Forest to private individuals.

The DCI report should be tabled within six months.

The parliamentary team wants those who substantively held the offices of Commissioner of Lands, Chief Conservator of Forests and Commissioner of Prisons between 1993 and 1998 held accountable.

Those culpable for the mess and where a criminal offence is established will be prosecuted.

According to the report, Environment and Natural Resources Henry Kosgey published a 28-day notice on January 2, 1998, expressing the intention to alter the boundaries of Ngong Road Forest to exclude  132 acres.

On March 23, 1998, his Natural Resources colleague Francis Lotodo published a notice in the Kenya Gazette exercising his powers under Section 4 of the Forest Act, Cap 385 altering the boundaries of Ngong Road Forest Reserve by excising 53.68 hectares (132.6 acres).

The two gazette notices were tabled before the committee. 

Tobiko appeared before the committee on July 13, 2020, and told members that Ngong Road Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1932 vide Proclamation No 44 of April 30, 1932.

Ngong Road Forest Reserve at the time occupied 7,239 acres.

The degazettements between 1932 and 1978 totalled 3,955.63 acres.

According to the CS, some of the excisions were for public purposes. 

They include Lang'ata Women's Prison, Police Dog Unit, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Bomas of Kenya, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

However, they were not formally degazetted and remained as parts of the forest.

Over time, several parcels in the undegazetted forest reserve were illegally and fraudulently allocated to 207 beneficiaries.

The illegal beneficiaries included individuals, companies and other entities.

The allocations were intended to conceal the true identities of the individuals behind them and real beneficiaries of illegal allocations, Tobiko told the committee.

Unfortunatly, searches at the Companies and Lands registries had not unearthed the actual beneficiaries of most of the illegal allocations.

The Lang'ata Women's Prison, which originally was 34 acres and reserved for Nairobi Prison, is still part of the undegazetted forest reserve.

It was illegally and fraudulently allocated to Arladyks Investments Limited, Priscot Company Limited and Onesmus Ngunjiri, who subsequently subdivided, sold and transferred to third parties.

This gave rise to residential estates like KMA, Lang'ata Gardens, Langata View and Shalom, and St Mary’s Hospital.

Similarly, Forest View Estate between the Dog Section and the Southern Bypass was illegally and fraudulently established within the undegazetted portion of Ngong Road Forest Reserve.

Residents of KMA Estate are among those who petitioned Parliament. They have also taken the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to the Environment and Land Court.

The committee noted that St Mary’s Hospital, Lang'ata Women Prison and the Police Dog Unit, KMA, Lang'ata Gardens, Lang'ata View, Shalom and Forest Edge View estates have been substantially developed and may not be restored to their original condition.

Also developed and on the forest land are the Bomas of Kenya, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.