Govt shelves plan to pull down buildings

January 19, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 19 – The government has shelved the planned compulsory acquisition of land on Mombasa Road which was intended for road expansion.

Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua said State was reviewing the matter and urged concerned parties to avoid panicking.

“The planned acquisition has been overtaken by events rendering some sections of the Gazette Notice obsolete,” Dr Mutua said in a statement posted on his official website.

”Therefore, there should not be any panic because the Government does not intend to pull down some of the new developments on the highway.”

Several buildings including those housing mobile phone company – Safaricom and Standard Group Limited were among those likely to suffer in case the government went ahead with the plan.

Dr Mutua explained that the intended acquisition had been shelved because it was contained in a 2006 plan which “has been overtaken by events due to new structures put up on the road.”

He said the State has also realised that the compulsory acquisition would be a very expensive venture to the government and a huge burden to tax payers.

Property owners on Mombasa Road and Waiyaki Way had been given a 30-day notice to bring down their buildings under the compulsory acquisition program to pave way for a major road expansion project.

But Dr Mutua said: “What the Gazette Notice indicated was part of a 2006 plan for land acquisition on Mombasa road in preparation for the Nairobi Toll Road project. However, the project has been delayed due to protracted negotiations and since then new developments have taken place on the road.”

“As it stands, acquisition of some of the sections would be too expensive to the Government and a huge burden to the tax payer.”

He said the Government encouraged Kenyans, and especially affected parties, not to read ill motive in the notice but to understand that such decisions were necessary to acquire land to enable it to develop vital infrastructure in our country.”

News of the intended compulsory acquisition elicited a major outcry from some of the affected companies, with the Standard Group reading malice in it.

The firm\’s deputy chairman Paul Melly termed it ‘an attack on the media and affront to press freedom’.

“The overriding negative impact was to actualise the destruction of the Standard Group as a media house and deny Kenyans their right to press freedom,” Mr Melly said and added: "The overriding economic impact will be not only to undermine Kenya\’s investment climate both locally and internationally, but also bring in a worrying element of uncertainty on predictability of land usage in the country.”

Safaricom Limited\’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore said the company did not own the buildings they operate from and would be negotiating with their landlords to get a practical solution.

"Safaricom is not in the business of brick and mortar and as such, we do not own any of the sites from which we operate," Mr Collymore had said in a statement.

"We are in touch with our landlords and the authorities with a view to working out a practical resolution."

The two buildings on which Safaricom operates from are not built on a road reserve but the government has indicated it will be invoking the section of the law that deals with compulsory acquisition to use it for a road expansion project.

Under such an arrangement, the government would have compensated legitimate owners of the land as per the current market value of their property.

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