Bribery, extortion claims cloud efforts to clear riparian areas

Monday, May 20th, 2024 04:24 | By
Situation at Mathare slums during the flash floods. PHOTO/Print

The ongoing demolitions in Nairobi’s Mathare area have been marred by claims of bribery and extortion.

Property owners now claim that they are being asked to part with millions of shillings for their properties to be spared. The latest case being a local international funded charitable school known as Still I Rise based in the slums.

According to Susan Irungu, the school’s director, some delegation comprising members of the local administration, General Service Unit (GSU), and National Youth Service (NYS) visited her office on Tuesday demanding for Sh1 million bribe to spare the building they are housed in from demolition.

Ms Irungu says she was surprised when the visitors, who had never been to her school before, demanded for the Sh1 million bribe to spare the two-storey building that houses all the classrooms and offices.

“We were surprised because that was our first encounter with the team. We couldn’t understand why they wanted us to bribe them to spare our property which, according to them,  is among  those  earmarked for demolition on grounds that  it is  on a riparian land,” said Irungu.

According to Ms Irungu, since the demolition exercise started no government official  has ever visited the school to tell them that their property is on a riparian land. She says the  Tuesday visit has brought  confusion in the school.

Nicolo Govoni, the school CEO, says that all they want is to be told by the relevant government agencies why it has taken them all these years for them to reach at the conclusion that their school is on a riparian land.

She says that preview reviews by government agencies, including the Ministry of Education  had given them a clean bill of health.

According to him, even before the Ministry of Education licensed them to operate the school, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) had visited the facility to undertake valuations and audits before providing   them with a certification of go-ahead.

Public health also visited the institution and gave them a go-ahead over  quality assurance.

“We just received our operating license for the next five years  about one and a half months ago from the Ministry. This is after they undertook  all the reviews including the buildings. How come they didn’t say anything about the distance from the river? Why was our application approved without any comments if for sure our property is on a riparian land ?” asked Govoni.

According to Govoni, his staffs are being bullied and blackmailed  to  part with some cash but this is not going to happen since they are not ready to bribe leaders who are supposed to be offering  them protection.

“These people came and threatened us here .They told us that it is either we pay or they will destroy our school.This is a violent way of doing things. We are not against demolition of the building but  what we are against is this kind of bullying and harassment,” added Govoni.

Owners of certain neighbouring buildings collaborated the fate that has befallen the proprietors of  Still I Rise school, claiming that they were forced to part with some cash, ranging between Sh 500, 000 to Sh 2 million  to save their buildings from being demolished. But some of the buildings ended up being demolished even after the owners had parted with the cash.

The demolition exercise that has been going on for some days now, has affected tens of families from Mathare.

This exercise started after the Interior CS Kithure Kindiki  ordered the demolition of structures and buildings illegally constructed along riparian land near all rivers within  Nairobi.

Kindiki directed the Nairobi Regional and County Security Teams to work with the Nairobi City County Government and the National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) to ensure immediate vacation of people living along the rivers.

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