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Scandal of 4,200 acres grabbed prisons’ land

Friday, June 7th, 2024 03:00 | By
Commissioner-General of Kenya Prisons Service, Kibaso Warioba and the principal secretary correctional service, Wairimu Muhia when they appeared before members of the Public Accounts Committee of the National assembly over audited accounts. PHOTO/Kenna Claude

Thousands of acres of Kenya Prisons Service land have been encroached on, Correctional Services Principal Secretary Salome Beacco has told MPs.

Of 117 parcels, or 22,693.15 acres, belonging to the Prisons Department, only 15 have title deeds, Beacco said.

Appearing before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee to respond to audit questions, Beacco said her department had requested Sh4.1 million in the 2024/2025 budget to help with surveying and titling.

In her submissions to the committee chaired by nominated MP John Mbadi, Beacco said some of the tracts of land were irregularly acquired in the 1990s by people who had illegally settled on them, and the department has sued to reclaim the land.

36 active cases

There are 36 active cases in the Environment and Land Court, she said.

She claimed government insiders had helped individuals to encroach on Prisons land, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.

She said: “The state department has initiated the process of documenting, surveying and acquiring titles for the remaining parcels through an inter-ministerial committee involving the Ministry of land and Physical Planning and the National Land Commission.”

The illegally acquired land includes 2,321 acres belonging to Kitale Main and Kitale Medium Prisons.

Court litigations

She said: “The ownership of two parcels of land mentioned above has been the subject of court litigation between Kenya Prisons Service and other parties (encroachers),” she said.

“To date, approximately 2,321.09 acres of Kitale Main Prison Farm has been illegally acquired by private individuals.”

Others are 21 acres belonging to Nakuru GK Prison and now occupied by churches, although the Environment and Land Court in Nakuru recently ruled in favour of the Prisons department.

Some 16.1 acres belonging to the Narok GK Prison was allocated by the defunct Narok County Council to private individuals, while another 4.942 acres belonging to the Kitui GK Prison is occupied by a church and private individuals.

On the Narok land, of the original 64.8 acres, 20 have been encroached on by private developers,  Beacco said, adding that the Narok County government has been regularising a development plan that does not reflect the original acreage of the Narok Prison land. She said: “In addition, there are two active court cases at the Narok Environment and Land Court where private developers have sued the Commissioner General of prisons, the Attorney General and the officer in charge Narok Prison for preventing them from putting up structures on the prison land.”

The 15 parcels with title deeds include those belonging to prisons in Kitengela, Naivasha, Kamiti, Murang’a, Nyahururu, Busia, Kilgoris, and Marala, the Woodley staff quarters, Lumumba Farm in Eldoret and Kibos.

Kenya Prisons Commissioner General John Warioba, confirming the 15 titles, said the department is working through the courts to reclaim the grabbed land.

Exact allocation

Following the revelations, the committee demanded that Beacco provide a report detailing the exact allocation of land the department owns and the acreage, as well as the land that has been encroached on.

“Please provide these details because we feel having titles for only 15 pieces of land is too little. This is very worrying,” Mbadi said.  ‘I am also wondering how churches can encroach on prison land. This is immoral.”

Kibwezi West MP Mwengi Mutuse sought to know whether people in government are behind the encroachment. Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo wanted to know why it was so hard for the prison department to take back what belonged to it if it had the right documentation.

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