The Water Resources Authority (WRA), formerly known as Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) and National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) have triggered a storm that brings into question the legality of many of their ongoing demolitions of multi-billion shillings buildings particularly in Nairobi.
It also brings into question whether some top operatives of the two authorities are using their positions to abuse the powers and privileges those offices have granted them in executing their duties with rampant impunity.
There is also the critical question whether these operatives are not merely pandering to the whims of other powerful forces to use the authorities’ offices to grind the axes of these powerful forces with their own scores to even?
The crux of the matter being that WRA and NEMA as required by law inspected and provided clearance for virtually all of these housing developments that must be met among a raft of other requirements from the government agencies. NEMA must have conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment and Clearance before the developers commenced construction works as required by law.
Even after that, the Authorities are supposed to make consistent inspections at every level of construction works’ progress up to completion of these buildings that investors have poured in billions of shillings including paying these government agencies to get certification, clearance and license and or title. WRA even goes further to peg the extent to which one should construct their buildings should one border water bodies.
The storm WRA and NEMA have triggered over the multi-billion shillings Seefar Apartments in the Nyayo Highrise area of Nairobi in which the developer, Erdemann Property Limited invested more than KShs. 1 billion to develop the apartments is a chilling experience.
Erdemann Property Ltd contends that after purchasing the land, it followed the legally required processes and paying the relevant taxes and approval fees which the government and its authorities/agencies received. The land therefore had a valid title and was not controversial.
Erdemann Property Limited, a real estate developer, completed the apartments in 2013 and sold them out to prospective buyers depending on their needs and how much money each of the respective residential housing units were being sold.
The buyers, majorly middle income Kenyans bought the houses having confirmed that all the due processes were followed in the construction of the apartments. The individual buyers also paid stamp duty to have the housing units registered in their respective names to the Kenyan government and the collector of stamp duty accepted those payments. This is clearly shown in the copy of title provided which shows the registered leases of individual buyers.
What has shocked not only the owners and tenants of the apartments is the fact that since 2013, it was not until October 12, 2018 that WRA and NEMA sent its inspectors to the Seefar apartments property to allegedly conduct an inspection by three officials on their own which found that the properties had encroached on the riparian reserve land of the Nairobi Dam as indicated in the orders by WRA and NEMA.
Why did the authorities take all those years to send inspectors who made hasty decisions and immediately issued orders to demolish the apartments giving a 14 day demolition notice to the proprietor, Erdemann property Limited?
Which has immediately triggered more questions than answers because the said Nairobi Dam is an artificial (man-made) dam and not a natural phenomenon of the environment. Therefore what are the laws governing such reserves vis-à-vis that of the housing developments considering the fact that the dam is man-made? Can your neighbor put up a dam in his plot and you are forced out because of your nearness to your neighbor’s dam?
Besides that, can WRA and NEMA tell the world what economic and environmental value this dam is serving or has been serving Nairobians since its development? Is it not the same dam which was once notorious of being the recipient of massive quantities of human waste from the Kibera residents popularly known as flying toilets?
What actions did NEMA or WRA take to stop this environmentally dangerous phenomenon from the residents of the world’s leading informal settlement? Are NEMA and WRA aware that the Kibera informal settlement continues to expand into the supposed dam and land grabbers are creating plots in the dam? Private individuals have already put up shelter and green houses inside the dam.
However, it is also extremely critical to take note that according to documents released to the physical measurements on the ground, the distance of the housing units from the dam in question is more than 47 metres away and from Ngong River is more than 100 metres when the legal requirement is between 6 metres to 30 metres or as pegged by WRA thus bringing into question the legal basis of the WRA and NEMA actions and threats.
The speed with which the authorities’ operatives moved to conduct their inspection on their own, issue demolition notices reeks of something extremely fishy that immediately demands for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s intervention.
Otherwise, how many property owners are facing nightmares from such highly questionable and obviously irregular actions by WRA and NEMA? How many have fallen victim and lost billions of shillings invested in multi-billion shillings that NEMA is leading in the multi-government agencies demolition exercises?
What guarantees can the Government, WRA, NEMA and related multi-government agencies give Kenyans that they are not abusing the noble cause that was initiated by President Kenyatta in securing the country’s riparian lands?
Following a 30 day extention notice and demolition threats from WRA and NEMA, the panicked residents who were renting residential houses in the apartments have started fleeing en-masse for fear of their household properties being destroyed by NEMA’s house crushers.
The owners of the apartments are finding themselves in a catch twenty-two situation with nowhere to go after spending millions to buy their own homes to escape the perennial merciless clutches of the landlords who are predators of their own tenants in Nairobi – Where will they start from again if their homes are demolished?
The investor and property developer of the Seefar residential housing apartments, Erdemann Property Limited has been forced to struggle to defend its name, protect the property he developed from being destroyed but also the integrity of his firm that is involved in the development of thousands of real estate properties across Nairobi worth hundreds of billions of shillings. The situation that WRA and NEMA have put genuine developers negates the efforts by the current government to encourage affordable and decent housing in Kenya.
The construction was launched by the late Housing Minister Soita Shitanda and the development comprises 288 middle-income units — 264 two-bedroom units and 24 three-bedroom units — on Three blocks of 12 floors.
Currently, a three bedroom apartment at Seefar goes for at least KShs. 9 million while a two-bedroom unit costs KShs. 6 million and Erdemann Property Limited sold these at almost half the current prices. The home owners have therefore appreciated the growth of their wealth by investing in these housing units. Those renting pay an upwards of KShs. 35,000 for a two bedroom unit while, those who live in the apartments expressed anger at the government saying they will not go down without putting up a fight.
Seefar Apartments sits on land L.R. NO 209/12108 which is inside the Highrise Estate by the National Housing Corporation (NHC) . Erdemann bought the land from Otieno Odongo, a Kenyan who is a consulting Engineer as shown in the copy of the title.
From the documents circulating on media, one can observe that Erdemann began construction of the apartments after getting the approvals necessary for construction i.e. City Council approval, NEMA approval, pegging done by WRA.
These developments also brings into question on how some of the mainstream media outlets in the country have been handling the matter since it erupted to the public domain with a sensationalism that has caused massive anxiety and panic on the house owners and tenants renting the units in the apartments sending them fleeing to safer zones.
That is despite the fact that Erdemann Property Limited, the apartment developers and even the Governor of the Nairobi City County Mike Mbuvi Sonko have gone on the defensive to ensure that the NEMA’s threats based on highly questionable decisions were not executed.
It should be therefore noted that even after having sold off Seefer apartments Erdemann Property Limited has stood with the home owners during this difficulty times something that other property developers in the country must emulate.