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County, Tata Chemicals in Legal Tussle Over Land Rates

Tata Chemicals Ltd lawyers are moving to court in Kajiado to stop the county government from attaching its property over arrears in land rates.

Hundreds of people stranded in Maili 46 town of Kajiado after train transport services by Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd was disrupted on January 12 by county government.

The company’s spokesperson Diana Irungu said on Sunday the move has been precipitated by county government action to detain its train coaches in Kajiado and failing to “come to negotiation table over the outstanding debt”.

The county government insists the company owes her Sh17 billion in land a rate dating back to six years on the 224, 991 acres of land it occupies in Magadi ward.

Company lawyers and those of the county government are set to take on each other in the matter that has a history of controversy dating back to 1980s.

On Sunday, former Olkejuado County Chairman, Tarayia ole Kores jumped into the matter pitting Tata Chemical’s and governor Joseph Lenku’s county government and told the latter to “stop drawing his imagination from utopia”.

“It is very wrong for Lenku to take upon himself issues of land lease in total disregard of the Magadi community that has time immemorial benefitted from the company. This is not politics, but a sober and positive way of approaching issues,” said Kores.

Kores said after taking over as chairman of the council, he personally negotiated with former Magadi Soda mining company for Sh40 million lease payments per annum.

The company, Kores said, paid the amount until 2015 when the new Tata Chemicals Magadi came in and negotiated with former governor David Nkedianye for the lease to come down to Sh26, 998,920.

After Lenku was elected to office, he insisted Tata Chemicals Ltd is not following the law in paying land rates as is stipulated by the county Finance Bill.

The long-running arrears had been negotiated downwards in a February 2015 in what Lenku claims “secret deal”.

However, Irungu has insisted there was no “secret deal” but the matter was discussed “above board.

Lenku says Tata Chemicals, formerly Magadi Soda, owe the county the Sh17 billion calculated at a rate of Sh14, 000 per acre as per the current Finance Act.

Documents in our possession show the deal sought to reduce the rates charged per acre from the Finance Act’s Sh14, 000 to Sh120.

“This deal would mean Tata Chemicals would remit to the County Government about Sh26.9 million every year, and not the Sh3.1 billion as per the current Finance Act,” said revenue director David Muntet.

Tata Chemical’s community liaison officer, Tulito Turere, on Sunday read ‘malice’ in the county government action to detain their trains and coaches in Kajiado.

Turere claimed certain individuals had approached the company for Sh1 million cash favours so they can stop Lenku from harassing them over land rates.

He said the company has been working closely with the communities in Magadi including paying fees for less fortunate students in secondary schools and university colleges.

“Every year we pay full fees for 38 Magadi community students in secondary schools and 18 from universities across the country through our corporate social responsibility kit,” said Turere.

The company also supplies water, food for the communities on top of subsidized healthcare accorded to members.

Turere said since Friday when the company train coaches and cars were seized by the county government many people have gone without water which Tata Chemicals supply using the locomotives.

Community members interviewed in Maili 46 town on Saturday appealed to the county government to get in talks with Tata Chemicals to shade off the misunderstanding that is ruining their lives.

Hundreds of commuters who use Tata Chemicals train coach to access the market in Maili 46 said they lost a lot of their farm produce after the train failed to show up on Friday.

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