Opinion

Lenku wasn’t wise: You can’t use a hammer against an investor

The tussle between the County Government of Kajiado and Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd over accrued land rates has turned out to be more of a battle of titans than a turf war. When negotiations hit a dead end, the two giants went for each other’s jugular.

Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd, formally Magadi Soda, sits on 224,991 acres of land of four group ranches: Olkeri, Olkiramatian, Shompole and Oldonyio-Nyokie in the vast Magadi ward.

Governor Joseph ole Lenku rejected a gentleman’s agreement made between his predecessor and company representatives way back in 2015. He scale up the rates from Ksh120 per acre to Ksh14,000 per acre, terming the lower figure a conspiracy to defraud residents. I support the governor on this, but the kind of hooliganism applied to demand the pay is outdated and has no room in the 21st century. It was least expect from someone who is a custodian of the law. There were better ways to address the issue.

The uproar got to a climax after Tata demolished county structures meant to bring services closer to the people, but later the fight was taken to the corridors of justice and no opinion from the angry common mwananchi was taken into consideration. The county government and Tata simply needed to strike a deal to have the office built.

The brouhaha came at time when the company is undergoing a serious setback caused by sediment deposits on the lake .Both its depth and area are decreasing due to sedimentation. The sediments are believed to be from Suswa. The company, in conjunction with the National Environment Management Authority, the Water Resources Management Authority, the national and county governments, came up with solutions to stop the menace.

They all reached a real deal to save the lake but days after, the governor threatened to divert the river so as to choke life out of the lake. He made good his threat by allocating Ksh30 million for diversion of the river. The move by the governor was not only uncalled for but also desperate.

Having differences with an investor does not permit the governor to choke life out of the lake. In fact, he should be at the forefront in protecting and safeguarding the natural resources in his area of jurisdiction.

The return of 190,000 acres of land to the four group ranches affected by mining would be fantastic if it were advanced in good faith. The National Oil Corporation of Kenya is the concession holder of the 14T petroleum exploration block, famously called Magadi Basin. It lies on the same basin as the Turkana Lokichar Basin. NOCK conducted 2G seismic surveys that yielded good quantities of hydrocarbon.

Because of the yield, NOCK embarked on appraisal stage 3G by exploration drilling. They thereafter in an advertisement on February 12, 2019 sought an equity partnership with an oil and gas company of international repute for the exploration activities it was undertaking. The company was meant to assist in the preparation of an appropriate farm down strategy, advice in the preparation of a suitable farm down plan and time table, and help identify potential farm partners in the 14T block. This block has a larger portion of its basement at 0.5 to 2 kilometers in depth and is yet to be drilled.

Block 14T lies within the Kenyan tertiary Rift basin. It is just south of Blocks 10BB and 13T, where commercial discoveries of oil have been made, and covers an area of more than 7,000 square km running to the border with Tanzania. The reclaiming of the 190,000 acres of land to the Magadi-Loodokilani residents is one sweet deal that might turn sour in the near future.

It is clear that the interests of the community in Magadi are worlds apart from those of the county government. The latter is after the accrued Ksh17 billion in rates owed by Tata, while the community has been working on the Community Development Agreement (CDA) for three years now and shows no signs of relenting. The community has been praying for the governor to have a change of heart and push for the signing and implementation of the document. Even though the governor has shown goodwill by helping to have the document improved, signing it has become problematic.

Tata Chemicals Magadi is not an exception when it comes to not having an engagement with mine-affected communities, as it is a regulatory in the Mining Act, 2016. This therefore left the Magadi community to live at the mercies of the law and that of God.

The larger Magadi community feel that the hullabaloo is meant to benefit a few individuals. The round-table negotiations saw the community left out and their primary issue-That is the Community Development Agreement, didn’t saw the light of the day during the talks. Not even as an AOB agenda. It’s then that the community blow their gasket and the ants in the community pants could make things take a turn if not today then tomorrow.

The county government didn’t took any initiative to educate the community on some of their rights violated by Tata chemicals Magadi and the best available avenues to tackle it. It was just a boom,Let us go to the fight.With no clear road map and no optional plans if the primary one fails.

Community priority

Magadi community primary issue is nothing other than signing and implementation of the community Development Agreement as enshrine in Mining Act 2016.The 34 pages legal binding document will solve the ages problems and historical injustices subjected to the remote Magadi people and be solve in accordance with the law of the land.

It’s unwise and barbaric for the fat cats to want force the poor Magadi residents to be abided by their boardroom decisions.

Community firm stand

On Community Development Agreement – The company to do the honourable thing and sign and show implementing the CDA, and by liaising with the Magadi Trust Forum, CDA committee, and other relevant organs to ensure that the document is fully implemented.

On land, the local community must be involved in every move taken either by the county government or Tata — in public barazas, not boardrooms.

On the lease, the Magadi community must be involved in reviewing, extending, or even amending any part of the leasing agreement.

On arbitration with the mining ministry, the community feels that it is important for them to be involved in the arbitration as they are major stakeholders.

Dickson Brighton is Kajiado County Youth Alliance ward youth delegate.

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