ALL AFRICA REPORT: A title deed that the Catholic Church acquired 14 years ago in Nakuru County has landed it in trouble after it was ordered to surrender it.
The government wants the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru to surrender the document for the nine-acre land parcel on which Ngwataniro Secondary School in Njoro District stands to end a protracted row between the church and the local community.
The local community in Mutukanio Farm in Mau Narok Division owns the land and the school.
They had sought the government's help upon learning that they could not register the school they established in 1985. Because of this their children cannot sit national exams.
Without their knowledge
The land where the school stands is registered to the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru. According to the community, this was done without their knowledge and consent.
The Catholic Diocese has now been given 14 days to surrender Mau Narok/Siapei Block 3/509 title deed.
Last week, Nakuru District Land Registrar, Mr D.K. Nyantika, wrote to the dioceses informing it that there is an "erroneous omission in the title deed which needs to be corrected".
"It needs to be corrected immediately for the school to benefit from certain overheads," the letter dated November 17 says in part.
It continues to say that the school should be registered in the name of the permanent secretary to the Treasury. And this is what the Mutukanio community members did not know. Land set aside for any public utility in all areas owned by land buying companies must be registered under the Treasury PS.
"It is now my humble request that you surrender the suit title within the next 14 days from the date hereof for necessary action," Mr Nyantika wrote.
How the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru came to acquire the land can only be attributed to the locals' ignorance.
The community had set aside part of the land they bought from the defunct Ngwataniro-Mutukanio Land Buying Company to put up a primary school.
Later, a need arose to have a secondary school. So the landowners hived off nine acres from the land allocated to the primary school and started what they called Mau Hill Secondary School in 1985.
"But we came to realise that we needed a sponsor for the school. That's how we invited the Catholic Church. They then went ahead and acquired a title deed for the land without informing us," the chairman of the school, Mr Kamau Thuku, recounts.
Bishop Maurice Muhatia, who is in charge of the diocese, has declined to comment on the matter.
But records show that the church initially managed the school in the 1990s. Then, it was known as St Louis Secondary School. It acquired the title deed for the land on February 6, 1996.
However, the church later closed the school and handed it over to the community at the intervention of the Nakuru District Education Board.
"We decided to call it Ngwataniro. But when we went to register it, we were told we could not do so since it stands on land owned by the church," he adds.
Since 1996, students who study at the school either drop out or move to other schools to sit KCSE exams. This saga has exposed the massive corruption in land buying companies.
Last month, Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission director PLO Lumumba promised to deal with complaints involving grabbing of land meant for public utilities in land buying companies.
Mr Lumumba was responding to a letter written to him by Futa Magendo Network -- a social watch -- which exposed the alleged grabbing of land belonging to Ngwataniro Secondary School.
Futa Magendo executive director James Mugo told the Nation that corruption in most land buying companies persists due to failure by the government to follow them up.
"After completing their work of buying land and subdividing it among the shareholders, a land buying company should wind up as it has no other business," Mr Mugo says, adding that this is not usually the case. http://allafrica.com/stories/201011260989.html