Recently-elected Law Society of Kenya (LSK) president, Nelson Havi, on Wednesday, March 11, stormed Ministry of Lands head-office at Ardhi House and demanded to have the Nairobi lands registries opened following a February 25, 2020 court order.
Havi had stormed Ardhi House alongside LSK CEO Mercy Wambua.
The two claim that Lands minister, Farida Karoney, has refused to obey an order issued by High Court Judge Weldon Korir that directed the Ministry not to close the Nairobi and Central registries for three weeks as was announced in newspaper adverts on February 20.
In the adverts, the Ministry of Lands said it was shutting the registries for three weeks to facilitate auditing and digitisation of land records.
Following successful application by the LSK to have the planned closures stopped, Havi and Wambua said they expected to see the lands registries operational.
The LSK had listed the Attorney-General, the Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney and the Principal Secretary Dr Nicholas Muraguri as respondents.
“Pending the hearing and determination of this case, a conservatory order in the nature of an injunction restraining the CS and the PS, their agents or any persons acting on their behalf from closing the said-registries for auditing records for three weeks as per the notice in local dailies on February 20,” Justice Korir said in his directive February 25.
On Wednesday, March 11, Havi told K24 Digital that the LSK had received multiple complaints from Kenyans, who lamented that they couldn’t get services from the registries despite the courts ordering that the offices should remain open.
Havi said he wondered why the “digitisation narrative” arises every time there is a new minister at the helm of Lands Ministry.
“Could it be that someone is trying to sanitise something? Could it be that there is someone out to make money from the said-digitisation process? Every time a new minister takes over the Lands Ministry, you’d hear people at Ardhi House speaking about digitisation of lands records, why?” posed Havi.
The LSK president argued that the Government was losing millions of shillings in taxes after closing the registries.
LSK CEO, Mercy Wambua, told K24 Digital that they arrived at Ardhi House at 11am Wednesday and found long queues of Kenyans seeking services, but no one was attending to them.
“We are disappointed by how officers at Ardhi House were serving Kenyans, especially the officers at the customer service section,” said Wambua.
“We are here to ask the CS [Farid Karoney] why she is not obeying court orders,” added the LSK CEO.
In their application in mid-February, LSK argued that the closure would stifle operations, with some documents which have already been assessed by the collector of stamp duty risking attracting penalties due to delay.
Advocate Titus Makhanu told K24 Digital Wednesday, March 11, that his clerk was manhandled by an administration police officers stationed at the reception of Ardhi House.
“The AP officers threatened to arrest my clerk, who had come to process lease payments,” said Makhanu.
After their attempts to meet the Lands CS failed, the LSK members said they will return to Ardhi House on Tuesday, March 17, and seek an explanation from Karoney as to why “she has refused to comply with court orders”.
K24 Digital called Lands PS, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, for comment, but he did not pick up the phone.