Land row threatens to derail Uhuru’s Kiambu Road project

Monday, October 26th, 2020 00:00 |
Club Sidai Oleng’ in Kiambu. Photo/PD/File

 What started as a simple dispute over land lease renewal between a businessman and a private investor on Kiambu Road has opened a protracted legal battle over who owns the over Sh50 million property currently hosting a popular night club.

The case before Justice Lucy Gacheru in Thika pitting John Ngugi, the director of Club Sidai Oleng’ against Peter Ruhangi, who is claiming ownership of the land, has sucked in the Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA), which maintains the suit land is a road reserve.

While Ruhangi wants Ngugi evicted and the premises demolished for non-payment of rent, the businessman wants Ruhangi stopped from reaping “from a government land he fraudulently acquired” and ordered to reimburse all the money he had received from him as rent since 2012.

The row that could derail  President Uhuru Kenyatta’s multi-billion shilling plan to expand Kiambu Road to a dual carriage way erupted after Ruhangi and Ngugi disagreed over renewal terms after the figure was raised by over 800 per cent.

Court records show Ngugi leased the land measuring 80 by 110 feet from Ruhangi in 2012 at a Sh100,000 monthly rent but in 2018, the figure rose to over Sh800,000.

Ngugi protested the new charges on grounds it was exorbitant since he only pays for land.

This led to a litany of suits where countless orders have been issued by different courts; some of which the Deputy Inspector General of Police, through lawyer Denis Nandi, on July 24, wrote to the respective courts protesting that some of the orders cannot be enforced.  

 On Friday last week, a Kiambu court stopped police from evicting Ngugi through an order that was issued in favour of Ruhangi in May, after Duncan Kahiro, a supplier to the club, moved to court on grounds that he will suffer loss.

The high-stakes intrigues have dragged in KeNHA, National Lands Commission, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Attorney General Paul Kihara, who in his response dated September 25, asked the court to revoke the title if indeed the land is a road reserve.  

Also dragged into the case are Director of Survey, Land Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney and the Chief Land Registrar as defendants and interested parties.

Road reserve

Ngugi argues that Ruhangi fraudulently acquired the property, and therefore, is not justified to earn rent from it.

The plaintiff has backed his argument with a letter by KeNHA Director General Eng Peter Mundinia, who indicated the land belongs to the roads agency and should not be utilised in any way. 

 “Since this is a road reserve it is public land, and, therefore, not available for any other use.

It cannot, therefore, be gazetted for acquisition,” Mundinia said in a letter dated May 21, 2019 and filed in court. 

KeNHA has also erected road edge markers indicating the portion belongs to it.

In a public participation over the road project last year, the agency said anyone sitting on road reserves will not be compensated.

Further, APEC Consortium Limited and Span Engineers, which were contracted by KeNHA to do a feasibility study said that from their review the land is public property.

“From the map it is apparent that plot LR No. 28177 is within the road reserve,” says a letter dated November 22, 2019 and filed in court.

Ngugi claims Ruhangi lied to the government to obtain the land, noting that he “acquired the suit property through fraud and hence ought not to have benefited from the land at all”.

Ruhangi, according to court documents, applied to be allowed to use the land as a parking lot for an intended Five Star Hotel he was constructing in his land (27/8) next to the suit property.

However, according to the plaintiff, by the time he was making the application to be given the land in 2008, it did not exist because it was sub-divided in the year 2000 and new numbers acquired by different people.

Last year, according to separate court papers, Ruhangi lost a case where he had sued Kenya Forest Service over ownership of a public land LR 17942 located near Club Sidai Oleng.

He is also said to be involved in yet another pending case with Nairobi County over a property LR 27/326 meant for a public nursery school, which he claims ownership.

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