More questions as Lands team leaves Weston land hanging

Weston Hotel along Lang'ata Road. (Edward Kiplimo, Standard).
The NLC did not hand Weston Hotel the land it stands on or return it to the claimant, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

The controversy surrounding the ownership of the land where Weston Hotel, which is associated with Deputy President William Ruto, stands has taken a new twist after the National Land Commission (NLC) failed to resolve the dispute.

In its final report, which is published in a Special Gazette dated February 15, 2019, the NLC did not hand Weston Hotel the land it stands on or return it to the claimant, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

In the Gazette notice, the NLC left the matter in abeyance after failing to make recommendations for upholding or revocation of the title for the 1.7-acre piece of land.

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The notice signed by the commission’s vice chair Abigail Mbagaya, negated a draft notice, and instead dwelt on statements of facts concerning the land.

The notice stated, “That it is not disputed that the subject parcel belonged to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. The letter of allotment issued to Priority Limited and Monene Investment Limited was irregular. That Weston Hotel are bona-fide purchasers without a notice of any defect in the title. That the land at the time of valuation was undervalued.”

Lost asset

According to the NLC, “The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority lost an important asset in this case. That the then Commissioner and Minister of Lands are to be blamed for the occurrence as they failed to act on the irregular allocation of the parcel.”

The report blamed the management of KCAA then for vacating the parcel without establishing if alternative land was available for allocation.

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During the NLC hearings, Ruto, through lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, denied irregularly acquiring the land.

The DP said that no one had ever claimed the property, adding that even during the hotel’s construction, he did not receive any complaint from the State or any individual.

He had told the NLC that he acquired the land in 2007 for Sh10 million from its registered owners, Priority Management Ltd and Monene Investments Ltd. Priority Management and Monene Investments had been allocated the parcel on January 5, 1998 for a period of 99 years to develop residential flats and apartments after paying a stand premium of Sh320,000.

The two firms got the title for the land in 2002, which they later transferred to Weston Hotel on June 13, 2007. Weston then applied for change of user, which was approved.

But KCAA’s lawyer Cyril Wayong’o had disputed this version. “The KCAA management and the board has never consented, agreed, relinquished or surrendered nor ceded the plot by way of sale, transfer, gifting or otherwise given it to any person,” said Wayong’o

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Documents provided by KCAA to NLC indicated that the agency, then known as the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) under the East African Community, used the land for its stores.

Yesterday, when asked why the commission had failed to conclude the matter by either upholding or recommending the nullification of the title to settle the dispute once and for all, NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri and his deputy disagreed.

Although the term of his commission has expired, Swazuri said the Gazette notice was illegal and would be nullified by court as he was the only one supposed to have signed it. “The Gazette notice is not known to me. I did not sign it and it is irregular. My deputy has a habit of usurping my powers,” Swazuri said.

Expired mandate

But even as Swazuri declared that he would go to court as most of the report was compiled at a time he was barred from accessing his office at NLC owing to a criminal case he is facing, Mbagaya maintained that the notice was genuine.

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She said the NLC’s mandate to revoke or uphold title deeds expired in May 2017 and was never extended by Parliament.

“Our role was reduced to just giving advisory opinion to the government,” she said. But when asked why NLC had left the Weston matter in abeyance, she said, “I stopped working at NLC a few days ago. Let me look at Gazette notice and get back to you.”

However, lawyer Ahmednasir Abdulahi who was representing Weston Hotel during the NLC hearings, said, “I do not know what will happen next. I have finished my work. For moredetails, you can now talk to the client. You know he is an orator.”

The lawyer accused the commission of overstepping its mandate by acting as a court of law which could adjudicate disputes.

“These guys thought they could work as a court and adjudicate matters. They were wrong because the Supreme Court had given an advisory of what they can and cannot do. By the way, the Weston matter is in court,” he said.

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NLCKenya Civil Aviation AuthorityWeston HotelNational Land Commission