NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 7 – Two bodies overseeing the demolition of unsafe buildings or those built on riparian land countrywide have found themselves at loggerheads with Members of Parliament after it emerged that some buildings were brought down despite lack of professional technical reports backing the decisions.
Members of the National Assembly Environment and Natural Resources Committee accused the Water Resources Authority (WRMA) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) of carrying out the exercises in what they described as outright impunity and a discriminatory approach.
In a confrontational session on Thursday morning where Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko had appeared to respond to MPs questions on the matter, MPs Hillary Kosgei (Kipkelion West), Charles Were (Kasipul) and Benjamin Washiali (Mumias) accused him of overseeing an illegitimate exercise.
“It looks like there was no coordinated professional activity that resulted in the activities where buildings were brought down leading to losses of millions of shillings,” said Kosgei.
Were was particularly worried that the exercise that has witnessed the destruction of many properties in the past had highly contributed to the diminishing confidence by investors to put up buildings in the country fearing what would later befell them.
“We need to put an end to this and come up with a permanent solution. An urgent solution to this mess is needed,” he said.
Washiali who also doubles up as Majority Chief Whip accused Tobiko of applying double standards when identifying which buildings are to be brought down, more so inconsistencies witnessed in WRMA and NEMA during the demolitions.
“So that we do not appear to be protecting some people and punishing others, we want the demolition orders to lifted until such a time when the government will come up with a clear programme where buildings that are to be demolished are backed by sufficient reasons,” he said.
Late last year, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua suspended further demolition of buildings across the country, a directive that was welcomed by hundreds of buildings owners whose structures were earmarked for demolition.
It is on this directive that Tobiko defended the inconsistencies witnessed in the exercise noting that the relevant agencies had suspended their operations.
He further observed that the government was not in any way biased in the exercise, sentiments which were also backed by Secretary to the Buildings Inspectorate in the Ministry of Lands Moses Nyakiongora.
“We are clear that the demolition is based on whether a building is on the river or is it within the riparian reserve; that is the criteria used and not who is the owner of the building,” he stated.
During the session where the controversial Seefar Apartments was the subject of debate, the Chairperson of the Committee Kareke Mbiuki consequently directed Tobiko to vacate the demolition orders on the apartments pending compilation of a substantive report by the ministry on its status.
“Having heard this matter and upon the authority accorded to me I direct the relevant agencies to vacate the demolition orders on Seefar Apartments immediately until the ministry produces the necessary needed documents that would otherwise change this order,” he directed.
NEMA had on October 13 last year issued a 14-day demolition notice to the developer of the apartments situated at Highrise, indicating that the apartments stand on riparian land.
“Seefar Towers in our own assessment is structurally sound but the only issue which the apartment has is that it was built on Ngong River which experts have warned that would endanger the lives of the occupants soon or later,’ said Nyakiongora.