DEPUTY President William Ruto will chair the Cabinet sub-committee on lands whose drastic recommendations will see the National Land Commission reduced to conducting research and providing advice.
In a move likely to significantly water down the powers of the NLC, the state proposes to amend the National Land Commission Act, the Land Act and the Land Registration Act, all of 2012.
In a letter by acting Lands Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, government says that the proposed amendments will remove bottlenecks and make the Acts conform to the constitution.
However, experts in constitutional and land matters dismissed the proposals, saying they are aimed at clawing back democratic gains on land matters and reintroducing control of the land sector by the government.
“The Acts which were passed in 2012 create operational challenges in land transactions. The manner in which Parliament deployed Article 67(3) of the constitution to expand the mandate of NLC expands the mandate of NLC beyond what the constitution envisaged,” Matiang’i said in the letter.
It was copied to the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution chairman Charles Nyachae, Abdikadir Mohamed, the Constitutional and Legal adviser to the President and Mbage Ngâ€™angâ€™a, chairman Kenya Law Reform Commission.
â€œThe ministry of Lands, after extensive consultations, proposes to amend the land laws to bring them into conformity with the constitution and to unlock the operational bottlenecks in land transactions,â€ the letter adds.
The letter, written on April 7, asks the NLC chair to give his views before April 20 and says that the amendments are necessary to guarantee the sanctity of titles and vest the role in the national government.
“The practice the world over is that governments guarantee all registrable documents/instruments. There is need to amend the laws to remove the ambiguity that seems to give NLC the authority to sign titles and establish registration units,” Matiang’i said.
He argues that the operational framework of constitutional commissions should be limited to the policy advisory level, research, investigatory leaven, performing oversight and monitoring functions, not the implementation level â€“ as is currently the case.
“My ministry envisages an NLC that plays oversight and advisory functions over matters of land. Executive Order No 2 of 2013 stipulates the role of the ministry. However, unless amended, the current legislation runs counter to the Executive Order,” Matiang’i said.
The proposals are also aimed at reviewing the national land policy, which Matiangâ€™i blames for bringing about confusion in the land sector by vesting the NLC with executive functions on land, thus watering down the ministry of Landâ€™s role.