NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – Former Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner General John Njiraini has quit the race for National Land Commission (NLC) chairpersonship to pursue “other interests”.
The seat fell vacant in February after Mohammad Swazuri’s six-year term came to an end.
Njiraini conveyed his decision to withdraw from the race in a letter addressed to the selection panel dated August 6.
Having retired from the national tax agency in June after serving two three-year terms that ended March 2018 and extended until his departure in June, Njiraini was among 11 candidates shortlisted for the position of NLC Chairperson who include former Nyeri lawmaker and ex-Minister for Special Programmes Esther Murugi among other contenders.
Njiraini was replaced at KRA by James Gathii Mburu who until his appointment in June was Commissioner in charge of Intelligence and Strategy.
Others shortlisted are former Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) chairperson Mwenda Makatimo and former lawmakers Tiyah Galgalo Ali (Isiolo Woman Representative) and Humphrey Njuguna (Gatanga).
The selection panel led by National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Commissioner Priscilla Nyokabi also listed lawyers Hussein Farah, Gerishom Otachi, Naomi Wagereka, Patrick Adolwa, Paul Wambua, Robert Kilimo and Mwenda Kiambi.
Established under Article 67 of the Constitution (2010), NLC’s core functions include managing public land on the behalf of both the national and county governments, drafting land policies, advising government on registration of land titles, and investigating land-related complaints.
The commission is also mandated “to assess tax on land and premiums on immovable property in any area designated by law; and monitor and have oversight responsibilities over land use planning throughout the country,” under Article 67 (2) (g) and (h) of the Constitution (2010).
NLC has faced turbulence since its inception with several of its top officials being arraigned in court on graft-related charges stemming from irregular land acquisitions.
In August 2018, Swazuri was arraigned at a Magistrate Court in Nairobi’s Milimani Law Courts and charged with fraud over the payment of Sh221.3 million for the irregular acquisition of five parcels of land for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway.
Swazuri and then Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) Managing Director Atanas Maina were accused of improperly conferring benefits to three companies whose purported titles for the five pieces of land marked as railway reserve had been revoked.
The prosecution told Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi, KRC essentially paid to acquire its own land.
Dasahe Investment Limited, Keibukwo Investment Limited and Olomotit Investment Limited were awarded various sums of money between October 2016 and February 2017, according to Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
In April this year, Swazuri was also arrested over the irregular compensation for a parcel of land in Mombasa to construct the Southern Bypass and the Kipevu Terminal link road in October 2013.
The NLC is said to have paid Sh109.8 million to private individuals and entities irregularly.
Recently, a three-judge bench of the High Court found the NLC erred when it advised the Ministry of Education to release Sh1.5 billion for the compulsory acquisition of a 13.8-acre parcel of land in Nairobi’s Ruaraka on which two public schools – Ruaraka High School and Drive Inn Primary School – stand.
Justices Bernard Eboso, Elijah Obaga and Kossy Bor on June 28 ruled the payment of the Sh1.5 billion to businessman Francis Mburu who had laid claim to the land was illegal.
“The compensation claim giving rise to the reference only emerged in 2016 as a historical injustice claim by the two interested parties. In our view the schools have been on the land for the past 30 years without any contestation,” Justice Obaga stated.
The judges also observed that two searches conducted in 1991 and 2018 were contradictory – pointing to the possibly of manipulation of land records.