The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has revived its bid to repossess contested land in Langata, Nairobi, on which President William Ruto’s Weston Hotel sits.
KCAA, in its fresh application filed before Environment and Lands Court, accused Weston Hotel of sitting on temporary orders which halted the hearing of the case for two years without prosecuting its appeal.
The authority’s lawyer Stephen Ligunya noted that Justice Bernard Eboso in 2021 granted Weston a one-year grace period to pursue an appeal on whether the Lands court had powers to hear the case.
However, Ligunya said that Weston has not shown any interest in pursuing the appeal, even after lapse of the grace period.
According to the lawyer, the orders should be set aside to allow KCAA to pursue Weston.
“The urgency of this matter is that the applicant, a State parastatal, is unable to utilise its land two years later due to it being held at ransom by the second respondent (Weston) who has not sought any directions for the disposal of the appeal,” said Ligunya.
In 2021, Weston’s lawyers moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge an order that the case ought to be heard in full.
The case had been scheduled to commence on July 12, 2021, after Justice Eboso dismissed Weston’s argument that the judge had no powers to hear the case. In June 2020, the hotel urged the judge to dismiss KCAA’s case insisting that the court had no powers to hear it.
Weston’s lawyers argued that KCAA had defied National Land Commission’s (NLC) orders to conclude negotiations on the land after which Dr Ruto would compensate the State agency.
Weston argued that the only way KCAA would approach the court was through an appeal and not a fresh case.
While disagreeing with the hotel, Justice Eboso in March 2021 said the court had powers to hear cases emanating from the commission. The judge ordered parties to prepare to give their submissions on July 12, the same year.
In the Environment and Land Court, Weston claimed that the case filed by KCAA was politically instigated.
In its appeal, the hotel asked the court to overturn a ruling by the Environment and Lands Court that it has powers to hear disputes emanating from the NLC.
Before the Environment and Land Court, Weston sought to conclude negotiations that would determine how much it would pay KCAA for the 0.773 hectare land lying opposite Wilson Airport.
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Citing NLC’s orders, the hotel had asked the court to strike out the case “because KCAA has not exhausted the remedies offered by the commission.”
However, KCAA claimed Weston colluded with two firms – Monene Investment and Priority – to grab its land.
KCAA lawyers Otiende Amolo and Ligunya argued that Priority could not have continued to deal with the same property after its legal interest in the land ceased.
“The second respondent was working with the third and fourth respondents in a scheme to construct on grabbed public land, perpetuating a fraud,” they argued, adding that the respondents never bothered to carry out a proper search to ascertain that the title to the land was legal.
While dismissing Weston’s application to throw out the case before it is heard on merit, Justice Eboso ruled that the authority had a legitimate claim before the court, which ought to be heard in full.
Weston argued that the judge erred and fully determined the case even before it was heard.
At the same time, the hotel accuses the judge of framing his own issues and discarding its argument in the ruling.
“The learned judge erred in law and in fact when he sat on the appeal against the decision made by the National Land Commission and decided the same on its merits,” court papers filed by Ahmednasir Abdullahi on behalf of the hotel read in part.
The aviation industry regulator further claims the ownership record is deliberately scrambled to conceal the fraud.
“This court cannot defer to individual claims by land grabbers where it is proved that the title was issued to grab a public land, in this case, public land entrusted to the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) for the public to ensure safety in air navigation and incidental purposes,” KCAA says in its court papers filed in the Environment and Land Court in Nairobi.
According to the agency, Priority was still applying for permit approvals in April 2008, a year after the same land was registered in favour of Weston.
The contested property, LR No 209/14372, was registered under Weston on June 13, 2007.
KCAA argued that Priority could not have continued to deal with the same property after its legal interest in the land ceased.
It also claimed that Weston ignored the Ndung’u Land Commission report that raised the red flag over KCAA land being grabbed.
While detailing gaps in Weston’s papers, KCAA argues that although Weston claims to be an innocent purchaser, there is no consent from the Commissioner of Lands approving the alleged sale, and no stamp duty was paid to seal the purchase process.