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Nairobi MCAs recalled to pass demolition laws

Prompted by the collapse of two buildings in a span of 19 days, the Nairobi county government has recalled Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) for a special sitting to debate a Bill that if passed into law will pave the way for the demolition of all unauthorised buildings in the capital.

The special sitting will be held on January 20 to debate the Nairobi City County Regularisation of Developments Bill, which will also see buildings built on river banks, railway and road reserves demolished.

Also targeted for demolition are buildings that do not meet standards approved by the county and those built on public land.

In the wake of the collapse of two buildings in Huruma and Makongeni estates that left eight people dead and scores injured, the county government has come under pressure to put in place laws to curb the illegal developments.

SPECIAL SITTING

But the county must beat a Friday deadline to re-publish the Bill, which lapsed last year before being read for the second time.

Nairobi Assembly speaker Alex ole Magelo said that the county executive would gazette the proposed law before the special sitting to allow it to be revisited by MCAs.

“Kidero’s (governor Evans Kidero) government filed a request for a special sitting last week through the leader of the majority and I approved it,” Mr Magelo said. If the Bill is published, it will have to be introduced into the assembly on Tuesday next week in time for the special sitting.

The Planning and Housing committees are already working on the proposed Bill to have a report on hand to enable the Assembly pass the law on the same day.

Contacted for comment, Leader of Minority Hassan Guyo said he supported the initiative but added that he would have to go through the clauses to ensure they do not hurt residents in the process.

If the Bill is passed into law, city developers may face a wave of demolitions in the next one month as the county government seeks to remedy the recurrent problem of unauthorised structures.

City Hall on Sunday issued a 30-day notice to the owners of complete structures and those under construction, which have not been approved to declare the status of their buildings.

RISK DEMOLITIONS

It warned that those who failed to meet the deadline risked demolitions while those who come forward will have their structures regularised.

But at the moment, there is no law that supports the regularisation of buildings built without the county government’s approval.

The proposed law states that all property owners who built houses without seeking approval from the defunct City Council of Nairobi will have a timeline within which to regularise their status or risk having their buildings brought down.

According to City Hall, only 40 per cent of buildings meet the required standards.

Based on the Bill, City Hall will set up a vetting committee comprising an urban planning expert, surveyor, engineer, environmental expert, architect, lands officers and legal officers to review building plans for approval.

Nairobi has suffered a perennial problem of collapsing buildings with previous attempts failing to address the issue.

In recent months, Nairobi MCAs had vowed to block all executive Bills until their demands for ward development funds and mortgages were met. This saw a Finance Bill rejected late last year.

Leader of Majority Elias Otieno said he would support the Bill, but could not vouch for all members.

“I cannot pre-empt the members and my move to bring the matter to the Assembly was in accordance to my position, which requires me to forward the request from the governor,” he said.

He reiterated his support for the proposed law, saying it was not the governor’s Bill but a legislation benefiting city residents.

Kahawa West Ward representative Patrick Ngaruiya (Jubilee), however, took issue with the Bill saying it would lock out well-meaning developers who lacked titles.

SCEPTICAL

“Most Nairobians do not have titles and have a difficult time having their building plans approved. I want the county to accept ownership certificates and letters of allotment as valid ownership documents to process approvals,” he said.

Mr Ngaruiya was also sceptical about giving enforcement powers to the Urban Planning Department, which he described as “notorious for corruption and bureaucracy”.

“People submit plans, but the bureaucracy will take ages and you have to bribe people to have the documents approved. I honestly do not think this law will change anything,” he said.

The National Construction Authority (NCA) has also launched a parallel two-month campaign against cowboy contractors, ordering several to halt construction.

NCA is targeting contractors who are not registered and those who flout rules, including failure to set up a signboard at the construction site listing all the professionals undertaking the works.