A Senate committee has threatened to suspend a multibillion road project in Uasin Gishu County over land compensation and employment of locals.
The committee on roads and transportation Tuesday issued the government a two-week ultimatum to compensate all the affected residents living along the Sh5.07 billion Eldoret Bypass failure to which they would stop construction.
Led by Chairman Kimani Wamatangi, the senators took issue with the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) for commencing construction of the 31km by-pass before fully paying and resettling all the affected residents.
“It is unfortunate to learn that KeNHA okayed implementation of this project which is currently four per cent complete yet we have so many land owners who are yet to be compensated,” he said.
Some residents had their maize destroyed by earth movers when construction started about six months ago.
“These are private land owners who should be promptly compensated in two weeks’ time failure to which we shall stop this project until that is done,” said the Kiambu senator.
Speaking during an assessment visit to Maili Tisa and Kapseret areas where the bypass will pass, Mr Wamatangi said that his team is working round the clock to ensure that they have names of the genuine land owners who need to be compensated.
“We have a petition in our possession from land owners who have been affected by this project and I want to assure you that we are going to look at it and come up with the names of the genuine people who need to be compensated so that the implementation of this project can go on smoothly,” he added.
Mr Wamatangi who was accompanied by senators; Godana Hargura (Marsabit), Steve Lelegwe (Samburu), Philip Mpaayie (Kajiado), Christine Zawadi (nominated) and Enock Wambua (Kitui) petitioned the contractor to engage in corporate social responsibility activities for the benefit of locals.
The lawmakers also urged site contractor China Wu Yi to hire more locals.
Mr Hargura, who is the committee’s vice chairman, said they need to see youth from one ward working on a particular section of the road and others working on another “so that everyone can feel involved in the project.”
The team accused the contractor of failing to spray water to control dust during construction, exposing locals to health issues, according to Ms Zawadi.
Mr Lelegwe said the committee would visit again in two weeks’ time to see if their concerns have been addressed.
Senator Wambua wondered why the government had given a green light to the project pending compensation as Mr Mpaayie accused the National Land Commission (NLC) and KeNHA for taking away land for the project without compensating owners.
“A time is coming when the contractor will stop this project because land owners will be up on arms saying that they have not been fully compensated. We are here to find a long lasting solution to this,” he said.
The senators were accompanied by area Governor Jackson Mandago, his deputy Daniel Chemno, Roads executive Gideon Birir and Uasin Gishu assembly’s roads committee members.
Governor Mandago also called for the compensation of land owners.
“Even as we help the government to implement this project, we need to have a plan because the value of land is appreciating each and every day,” he said.
Speaking at Kapseret, Law Society of Kenya North Rift branch chairman Zephani-ah Yego urged the government to compensate land owners in not less than 30 days from Tuesday.
“We don’t know the exact number of the affected land owners. Can we really know how many land owners have been affected. We need to get a list of genuine land owners so that we can vet them,” said Mr Yego who has also been affected by the project.
He opposed compensation in phases or instalments as he called for an increase in disturbance fee by at least 30 per cent based on the high cost of living.
Another resident, Mr Kipkoriri Menjo, urged the contractor to adhere to the orig-inal design of the road.
“This should be a dual carriage way as per the original design based on its signifi-cance in this region,” said Mr Menjo.