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Muslim leaders in dispute over Wakf commissioners’ appointment

By Mbarak Abucheri:

The rift between Muslim leaders over the Wakf Commission is widening following a court petition filed by former Chief Kadhi Sheikh Hammad Kassim questioning the legality of current commissioners..

Former Chief Kadhi Sheikh Hammad Kassim and three other applicants have filed a case at High Court in Mombasa against Attorney General over Wakfu Commissioners appointments.

They sued Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai,on grounds that he did not consult the ”Muslim community” before making the appointments.

In the Kenya gazette notice dated April 28, the Attorney General appointed new Wakf Commissioners to serve for a period of three years each respectively.

Those appointed are Prof Hamadi Iddi Boga(Chairman), Juma Ngao, Zubeir Noor Hussein, Nagib Shamsan, Shariff Hussein Ahmed and Dr Mwanakitini Bakari.

Sheikh Hammad,Ali Said Muhammad Al- Mandhry,Mkanyageni Mosque administrator Mohiddin Muhammad Mohiddin and Basheikh Mosque administrator Naaman Muhammad Naaman alleged that the AG acted without jurisdiction and wrongfully  denying the stakeholders an opportunity to vet the appointees.

Kassim moved to court seeking to stop the commissioners from operating, claiming no consultation was done before they were appointed and subsequently assumed office.

A section of Taskforce members however, criticized the move saying that it was part of the intrigues aimed at forestalling its work to reform the commission.

A member of the Taskforce Dr. AbdallahKheir, a former Imam and lecture at Kenyatta University said right from its inception, the taskforce had received disapproval from some present and past members of the Commission and people with vested interests over fears that it will expose the wanton abuse of the properties being administered by the Wakf Commission.

“Members have had to use their own resources after the commission refused to finance the activities of the taskforce,” he said. “Even after the AG appointed some members of the Taskforce to serve as commissioners so as to streamline the operations of the team, they have continued to frustrate and went to court to altogether stop its activities,” he added.

In a letter dated July 11, the taskforce raised complaints to the AG of frustrations from the Wakf Commissioner of Kenya towards its work. “The Wakf Commissioners had scheduled a meeting for the 24th June, 2016 with a view of approving the taskforce budget. However, the said meeting could not take place due to a court order served upon the Wakf Commissioners staying the appointment of the Commissioners,” said Brenda Mutoka from the secretariat.

Speaking to Nepjournal, Dr. AbdallahKheir said prime properties belonging to the Wakf Commission are being rented out at rates far below the market rates pointing out that some of the beneficiaries are among those who went to court. “One of them is paying Sh15, 000 for a flat in Kibokoni area of Old Town in Mombasa which according to current market rates is going for Sh60, 000,” he said.

“In Nairobi a prime plot in Upper Hill was sold in questionable circumstances while plans are underway to sell another prime property along River Road in similar circumstances. Some of the properties in Mombasa are being leased out to night clubs, riba (interest) banks and insurance companies which operate in outright contravention of Islamic laws,” he added.

Sheikh Abdallah said the Commission is managing properties worth more than Sh4billion and has in its account more than Sh400 million which needs to be used to improve the lives of the less fortunate in the community.

Two months ago, a taskforce member Juma Ngao echoed similar concerns saying that powerful individuals from within and outside the commission were focused on frustrating its activities. “We are fighting an endless war because of former and current commissioner who are opposed to the review of the Act. They have overseen massive mismanagement of properties meant for orphans and destitute members of the society,” he said in comments carried in the Daily Nation.

“It is shocking that lands and other properties were leased between Sh250 and Sh6, 000,” the commissioner stated while adding that the individuals had romped in a senior state official to ensure that their efforts materialize.

In the suit, the four applicants complained that the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) and the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) were not consulted before the appointments were made.

Letters seen by Nepjournal addressed to Ali Said al Mandhry from the Coast SUPKEM chairman Mudhar Khitamy and CIPK organizing Secretary Khalifa Muhammad said the appointments were improper as “Muslim scholars were not involved in the exercise.

Dr. Abdallah Kheir however, dismissed the claims saying that as per the law, the Coast Regional Commissioner Nelson Marwa involved Muslims in the consultation process.  “Is it stipulated anywhere within the Act that these four individuals together with SUPKEM and CIPK are the only people who should be consulted?” he asked.

In spite of the disapproval from some quarters, he said the larger Muslim community has welcomed the initiative to reform the Wakf Commission for the betterment of Muslims. Since its inception, the taskforce has had engagements with various Muslims bodies who include Jamia Mosque Committee, Umma University, the Mombasa based Muslim Education and Welfare Association (MEWA) and other stakeholders in Malindi and Lamu.

Sheikh Ngao vowed to challenge the petition and accused the former Chief Kadhi of colluding with members of the Mazrui family to control property worth more than 10 billion shillings.

Ngao, also a Wakf commissioner, claimed the Mazrui family has been manipulating locals by acquiring and leasing state-of-the-art buildings and prime plots. He questioned why past commissioners were only being selected from the Mazrui Kibokoni family.

“Can they answer why they leased a building to Casablanca club and Glory guest houses? Are the activities taking place there in accordance to Muslim faith?” asked Ngao. The commission is recognised as a trustee in the management of properties on behalf of Muslims in Kenya.

In 2010, when he was served as the Chief Kadhi, Sheikh Hammad Kassim championed for the reforms of the Wakf Commission saying that its legal framework which was made during the colonial period did not appropriately serve the interests of the Muslim community.

In its recommendations, a report of the 2008 Sharawe Commission formed by former President Mwai Kibaki to address specific concerns of the Muslim community also observed that the Wakf Commission was being managed in a non-transparent manner and suggested mechanism to overhaul it to ensure that it benefits the large Muslim populace.

Wakf Commissioners of Kenya administers Wakf properties and related matters set aside for charitable purposes in the Muslim community.

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