Eminent Domain: The Government Has the Power to Take Over your Land
Eminent domain refers to the power that the government has to take private property and use it for the public good. According to the 2010 constitution, Article 40 section 3 (b), the government holds the right to deprive a citizen of his land and use it in the best interest of the public. The law also states that the private landowner needs to be compensated.
In one case presented to the court in 2016, three petitioners who were shareholders of Original Sigona Enterprises Limited, a limited liability company based in Kiambu County opposed the demolitions in the construction and expansion of Nairobi-Naivasha road from Nairobi’s James Gichuru Junction to Rironi Junction in Kiambu County. They argued that the demolition of the Sigona House was against the law.
They argued that the building was a historical building and cultural heritage. The construction was also going to see the demolition of a borehole that served 5000 people in the area, along with a historical church building and two petrol stations.
The case above is just one example of eminent domain. But this is just one half of the story. Once the government clears the land for use, the original landowners are sometimes forgotten. Investors and homeowners who secure loans to invest in real estate often find themselves at a loss when the government fails or takes too long to compensate them for their losses. Some have to contend with the government’s bureaucracy before they are finally compensated.
It will be better if the law is amended to state that the government only has access to the property if and when it has compensated the property owner in full. This will ensure that the property owners are paid on time and the unnecessary demolitions of property by some frauds pretending to be the government will not be there.
Property owners are supposed to be compensated accordingly. If it is a piece of land, the landowner ought to be paid the total amount that the land is currently going for. If the land has structures built on it, they should also be compensated for.
Through eminent domain, the government has the power to take your land and use it for the good of the general public. But in some cases, corrupt government officials use this power to perpetrate land injustices. Knowing your land rights plays an important role in ensuring that you are not on the receiving end of such unfair treatment.