A family in Eldoret has said it will appeal a High Court ruling that fined former President Daniel Moi Sh1 billion over accusations of illegally acquiring land.
The High Court in Eldoret ordered the former president to pay the family of Noah Chelugui (now deceased) Sh1.06 billion for a 53-acre prime land currently owned by Rai Plywood Company in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
Mr Chelugui’s 85-year-old wife, Susan, and her son David Chelugui, sued Mr Moi, Rai Plywood, the District Land Registrar, Uasin Gishu District, the Registrar of Titles and the National Land Commission in 2014, nine years after Chelugui died.
But some members of the Chelugui’s family have absolved the retired president of any wrongdoing, saying he acquired the land legally.
Chelugui was a powerful chief in the administrations of former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Moi.
Moi’s lawyer Juma Kiplenge disclosed that on May 15, he filed a notice of appeal and notice seeking a stay of execution of the orders by the Lands and Environment Court in Eldoret.
“Yes, we have filed a notice of appeal and we are ready to argue our case. We will be lining up more witnesses,” the lawyer said.
On the other hand, William Arusei, the lawyer representing Chelugui's widow and son (David), said he was ready for the court of appeal battle.
Arusei, however, said he was yet to be served with the notice of appeal.
“We can’t comment much about the appeal, but we are ready for any appeal as soon as we are served with the notice and as and when we get instructions from our clients,” he said.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard, a section of the Chelugui’s family said they would appeal the Justice Antony Ombwayo ruling on behalf of Moi.
The members, who requested not to be quoted because they would testify in court as witnesses, said the former Head of State legally bought the land from Chelugui in 1978 before he became President.
“As a family, we know Moi paid Sh220,000 to the late Chelugui even before he became President. He later added another Sh20,000 before giving him a Mercedes Benz and a bus known in the 1980s as Sugoi Express,” the family member said, adding that he was not given an opportunity to testify in High Court.
It emerged after several interviews with The Standard that Chelugui had sold the land located along the Eldoret-Uganda Highway, to Rai Plywood in 1977, but Moi expressed interests in 1978 and paid the Sh240,000 to settle Rai Plywood.
The section of the litigants’ family, however, faulted the ruling, saying Moi did not grab the land as alleged, noting that they had documents to prove that the former president was clean.
According to the section of members of the Chelugui family, Moi went to an extent of giving Chelugui 50 acres at the Sugoi Scheme in Uasin Gishu, on top of the Sh240,000 and motor vehicles, in exchange for the 53 acres.
“Our culture prohibits lies and we want to stand with the truth. We don’t want curses to follow our generation. We have a strong feeling that the ruling was part of a scheme to taint the image of the retired president and that’s why we are ready to say the truth,” a member said.
In 2007 Rai Plywood would try to buy the same land it had unsuccessfully acquired in 1977 from Chelugui, that time from Mr Moi.
The land was part of a 3,300-acre farm bought jointly by Chelugui, Nathaniel Kiptalam Langat, Thomas Kipkosgei Yator, Cherop arap Maritim and William Kimngeny Letting from a European settler, Jacob Hendrik Engel Brecht, in 1965.
The land was named Kapking’ong’o farm, after the five men that purchased it.
Speaking separately, Kapking’ong’o farm secretary and trustee Andrew Kotut also exonerated the former Head of State from the accusations, saying the late Chelugui requested the group of elders to sell his share in the land.
“He (Chelugui) approached us to sign as witnesses that he was selling the land. It is by the grace of God that we are still alive to testify in the land deal. We urge Mzee Moi to appeal that ruling,” Mr Kotut said.
He added: “Chelugui family owes Mzee Moi a lot of gratitude because they used the money from the sale of the land to develop the Sugoi farm given to them by Moi.”
Kotut said a survey was done in 1983, just before Moi acquired the land from Chelugui, and it was discovered that Chelugui had sold his share. He had further sold six acres that reportedly belonged to the late Kiptinge Chemwor.
According to the trustee, no dispute was registered during the subdivision of land done in 1983, where Moi was given 53 acres belonging to Chelugui.
“Mzee Moi was allocated Block 15/239, which was 53 acres after all the five directors of Kapking’ong’o farm signed the transfer of ownership from Chelugui to Moi,” said Kotut.
Rael Tanui, daughter of the late Kaptingei Chemwor, now claiming Chelugui allegedly sold six acres of her father’s farm, said everyone in the neighbourhood knew the land belonged to Moi.
“It is suspicious that this matter was taken to court many years after Chelugui died. I don’t remember Chelugui registering any complaint when he was alive,” she said.
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