The family of the late Nyeri governor Nderitu Gachagua has lost a prime parcel of land after National Land Commission (NLC) revoked its title deed.
The revocation of the title for the 1.2 acre piece of land located in Nairobi's Lang’ata estate and believed to be worth more than Sh1 billion opens up a battle between NLC and the late governor's family.
In a gazette notice dated 17th July, NLC announced it had revoked the title deed, only three months after it expressed intentions to buy the prime property “at competitive market rates” in line with compulsory acquisition provided for in Kenyan laws.
The property hosts 80 middle-class apartment units and its ownership is listed under Vipingo Beach Resort Limited, owned by the family of the former Nyeri governor who passed on in February. Vipingo Beach’s lawyer, Njoroge Regeru obtained temporary orders barring NLC move, arguing that decision violates another court ruling in 2015 which confirmed the company as legal owner of the property and barred the NLC from interfering with its possession.
The NLC did not appeal against the ruling at the time. In March, NLC issued a notice of inquiry through a gazette notice, but changed mind less than three months later by holding a fresh review of the property which led to cancellation of land's title.
In its review, the commission ruled the property was gazetted as a road reserve and intends to transfer it to the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) for expansion of the Southern Bypass. NLC and KeNHA are yet to make submissions in response to the suit.
Vipingo Beach Resort said individuals who bought the 80 apartments erected on the land were demanding compensation after seeing the NLC’s earlier gazette notice of intention to acquire the property compulsorily.
“Upon publication of the aforesaid gazette notice for compulsory acquisition, the purchasers of the apartments on the suit property repudiated the contracts and they are claiming compensation from Vipingo Beach Resort Limited,” says Rigathi Gachagua, a Vipingo Beach resort director and brother of the deceased former Nyeri governor.
“The purported review of Vipingo Beach’s title to the suit property was a pitiful attempt by the NLC and KeNHA to illegally acquire the suit property and was in contravention of the 2016 judgment which declared Vipingo Beach the lawful owner of the suit property,” the firm’s lawyer Mr Regeru adds.
Gachagua controlled 89.94 per cent stake in Vipingo Beach Resort, his daughter Susan has a 10 per cent stake, while his son Kenneth has 0.05 per cent of Vipingo Beach Resort Limited.
Gachagua’s brother, Rigathi, who is now Mathira MP owns the other 0.01 per cent of shares.
In a case filed against the Roads Ministry, Attorney- General Githu Muigai, Kenya Railways Corporation and KeNHA in 2012 that was determined by Justice Mary Gitumbi three years later, Vipingo said that the land was then valued at more than Sh800 million. In the suit, KeNHA said that the disputed land lies on a road and railway reserve. Vipingo, in the suit claims the fresh NLC’s review was a contravention of Justice Gitumbi’s orders, the public land regulator did not give it a hearing before cancelling its title deed, hence its move is in contravention of fair administrative action as laid down by the Constitution.
“The NLC by its letter dated August 11, 2017 acknowledged receipt of Vipingo Beach’s complaint and undertook to update Vipingo Beach “soon” as the matter was being handled by the relevant committee of the NLC,” Mr Regeru adds in suit papers.
Last week, Justice Chacha Mwita ruled that his orders suspending the NLC’s decision will stand until a judge from the High Court’s judicial review division is on duty.