How botched sale of Sh150m city land fuelled SDA battles

FROM LEFT: Chairman of Nairobi Central SDA Church Sammy Masara, Dr Enock Kinara, Executive Secretary and director Humphrey Macharia address the press on August 14 at a Nairobi hotel. [File,Standard]
A failed disposal of a Sh150 million plot in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa area in 2015 ignited the current wrangles witnessed at the Nairobi Central SDA church. 

The church failed to sell off the half an acre parcel of land, after claims of fraud and misrepresentation were made against some church officials.

The claims of fraud were made at Kilimani Police Station, where the inquiry stalled after the firm that had paid for the land opted out.

“The investigations could not proceed after the money paid for the land was refunded,” Kilimani DCIO Fatma Hadi said when asked about the status of the case.

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On November 21 2014, an executive committee meeting of the Kisumu-based West Kenya Union Conference (WKUC) met and resolved to sell of the land LR 3734/3205 at Mazeras Road, in Kileleshwa.

The money from the disposal, according to the minutes of the meeting attended by 22 officials was to be used to construct staff houses in Kisumu to save the union Sh9 million in annual rent.

Annual rent

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Consequently, the church entered an agreement with Lufua Gardens Limited for the transfer of the plot on April 15 2015, with the church receiving Sh25 million in advance payment. Lufua directors Sheba Moige Ombati and Alvin Mogaka Mwencha appended their signatures on the transaction while WKUC President Dan O Ogwena, Union Secretary David A Sande and Treasurer J Ochorokodi represented the church.

However on May 21 2015, Dr Charles B Maranga and Geoffrey M Asanyo wrote to the church to object the sale on grounds of anomalies in the transfer documents. The two also petitioned National land Commission (NLC).

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Former NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri wrote to the director of Land and Enforcement on the same day instructing that the transaction on the land be stopped until investigation’s on the ownership is determined. 

Asanyo and Maranga had claimed that although, the transfer was signed by Owenga, Ochorokodi and Sande, the legally-recognised officials were Paul Musyoka Muusya as President, Samuel Makori as Secretary and Ogwena as Treasurer of the SDA Union.

Detectives from Kilimani Police Station then summoned the affected parties when probe of fraud began.

Thwarted plan

However, with the transaction having run into problems, the directors of Lufaa gardens, sought to cancel the transfer and refund their money.

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“Quite sadly (the deplorable state of our system), the ill-founded objections have been given effect by the land office to frustrate to transaction and now there are investigations of some purported fraud,” the firm’s lawyer J M Ogeto wrote to the SDA church lawyer Oriema Okoth on June 2 2015.

The lawyer then proceeded to demand the Sh150 million, saying they were no longer interested in the plot. “I write to let you know that following the current situation that surrounds the sale of 0.503 acres of land 3734/3205 at Mazeras Road, which you acted on our behalf as a legal firm, WKUC took an action on June 9, 2015 to refund the buyer as per his request without any liabilities to us. Your firm will refunds the Sh125 million as WKUC will refund Sh25 million,” Ochokorodi wrote to Oriema on June 11 2015.

Last week, a splinter group at the Nairobi Central SDA Church claimed the fight for multi-million shilling property is at the heart of the ongoing wrangles. They accused the church pastor and officials of the Central Kenya Conference of purporting to ex-communicate 15 members, claiming those targeted had thwarted plans to dispose the plot in Nairobi now worth Sh200 million.

“The purpose of removing a member from church register is supposed to be redemptive rather than condemnatory. The leaders were shy to come out and say those they want to remove from the church register highlighted and even stopped fraudulent activities within the church,” said Sammy Masara, a church elder.

He added: “A good example is the intended sale of a prime church property worth Sh200 million in Kileleshwa, which was forestalled and eventually the sale cancelled.”

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SDA wranglesNairobi Central SDA church