NAIROBI, May 23 – The Institute of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) has thrown its weight behind plans to repossess public land whose leases have expired, but urged the government to work closely with professional bodies in its implementation.
Chairman Mwenda Makathimo said on Friday that this would ensure good management of public land.
“There is nothing wrong with the government considering such land for other plans that would make our economy and the country better,” he pointed out.
“But if the government takes measures that would destroy investment and create social imbalances, then that would be wrong.”
Makathimo offered to give professional help to people holding government leases, and advised other professionals to do the same.
“If they need to apply way in advance, they should apply so that they are not locked out. We also appeal to other professionals to desist from giving alarming and misleading statements alluding to non-respect of title,” he said.
The chairman’s comments follow a government announcement reclaiming land whose leases had expired.
Makathimo urged the government to value tracts of land whose leases have expired to determine their current market value.
On Wednesday, Lands Minister James Orengo issued a directive declaring that all 99-year land leases issued before May 1909 and other short-term leases that had expired would revert to the government, as allotment letters were nullified.
The Minister, who however could not tell the acreage and number of land owners affected, said that since the leases had not been granted any extension, their ownership reverted to the government.
Makathimo said before any applications for renewal could be considered the government should value the land to boost revenue collection.
"Those who acquired the leases have been paying peppercorn fees of as little as 30 cents. It’s as if they obtained the huge tracts of land as gifts from the Queen," he exclaimed.
He said the land that reverts to the State should be an opportunity for redistribution, to address inequities and allow the government to set up land banks to tackle the persistent land problem.