Kenya’s land commission bombshell to ministries
INVESTORS IN Kenya’s mining and oil sectors have been operating on illegally awarded licences, while paying fees, rents and royalties to unauthorised government agencies, according to the National Lands Commission.
The commission says it is the custodian of all public land and thus mandated by law to issue licences and collect all payments for land us on behalf of the government.
NLC is basing its claims on the National Lands Act that stipulates that a lease or licence for public land shall be issued by the commission. Section 28 of the Act states that rents and other payments and royalties received under any lease licence shall be a debt owed to the commission and shall be paid by the licensee to the commission, while Section 29 imposes interests for failure to make payments to the commission.
“All royalties belong to the government but must be paid to the commission which distribute to the relevant government agencies and the communities,” said Mohamed Swazuri, NLC chairman.
The assertion by the NLC exposes the supremacy wars between government ministries and agencies, something that could further dent Kenya’s efforts to attract investors in the mining and oil sectors.
“The manager of public land is none other than NLC. We have not been approached by anyone for land for prospecting, yet any public land use must be authorised by the commission,” said Mr Swazuri.
He further said that while the commission has been silent on the issue, it intends to start enforcing its mandate of licensing all activities on public land and collecting the relevant rents, royalties and other forms of payments on behalf of the government.
“We want to lay the foundation of engagement with stakeholders, county governments and relevant ministries,” he said.
In proclaiming custody of all public land, the NLC has opened a war front with the ministries of Energy and Petroleum, and that of Mining, which have been issuing investors with prospecting, exploration and mining licences.
“As far as I am concerned, the issuing of exploration licences in the oil industry is the mandate of the Cabinet Secretary [ministry of energy and petroleum] based on the advice of a special committee,” Petroleum principal secretary Andrew Kamau told The Eastafrican.
The NLC is also headed for a clash with the National Treasury for seeking to directly receive royalties paid by mining companies in the country.
The claim by NLC is bound to further antagonise investors who were already jittery over regulatory uncertainties, national and county governments demands, local community resistance to projets and pressure from civil society particularly on the issue of environmental conservation.
The bombshell by the NLC comes on the heels of a report by Pricewaterhousecoopers that regulatory uncertainties is among key factors making it impossible for companies and investors to operate in Africa’s oil and gas sector.
“It is disheartening that governments are not catching up to demands and calls from oil and gas companies to ensure regulatory certainty to players who are looking to invest in hydrocarbons,” states the report.
Mohamed Swazuri, chairman of the National Land Commission.