The promise of owning a home at an affordable cost is almost always a deal too hard to resist.
So when Bishop David Ngari, chairman of Ekeza Sacco and Gakuyo Real estate firm, came up with such a deal, 7,000 Kenyans signed up.
And according to the latest audited books, they had cumulatively saved Sh316.5 million by December 2015.
It is projected that the cumulative savings are now much higher, considering how aggressively Ekeza Sacco Ltd has been marketed from January last year to date.
And speaking to The Standard yesterday, Ngari revealed that the amount now stands in excess of Sh3 billion.
To join the housing scheme, prospective home buyers are required to deposit a minimum of Sh10,000 as booking fee.
Once this is done, they can now start saving continuously with the sacco under the scheme christened Gakuyo Zero Deposit (G zero D) programme.
Mr Atambo Ngoko is one of the many Kenyans who had joined the housing scheme and had saved Sh30,000 plus the registration fee.
But Ngoko is now bitter over what he terms as ‘serious fraud’.
“I feel conned,” Ngoko said, days after a site visit-cum-members’ meeting in Murang’a that ended in disarray on the last Saturday of March.
It was a date when thousands of members expected to receive keys to their new homes following a promise made by the housing firm last year.
However, none of the houses were ready and the meeting soon turned into a shouting match between Bishop Ngari’s men and the frustrated savers who had been charged Sh500 for the bus ride from Nairobi.
Ruth Wairimu said she was excited about the project, which she heard in a radio advert about the prospect of owning a home at an easy payment schedule.
But a year after registering with Gakuyo Real Estate and continuously saving through Ekeza Sacco, all she has had is three site visits including one to Kamulu in Machakos where the firm has supposedly acquired land but was yet to break ground.
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“That place is a desert – there is nothing,” Wairimu told our sister television channel KTN News, boiling with rage following the broken promise.
During the last site visit to Murang’a, on March 25, Wairimu and other savers demanded they are refunded money paid as booking fee and savings since there was little hope of ever receiving their homes.
It would appear that her nightmare is shared by many more prospective home owners who have been cheated by cunning developers, including a recent case involving Simple Homes which closed down and the directors went into hiding.
Simple Homes customers had paid Sh500 million to the sham company which had packaged itself as a developer and a commission agency, selling homes on behalf of other builders.
However, speaking to The Standard, Ngari insisted his dealings are above board. He said he is a “clean, wealthy man who is not interested in defrauding any of the poor people whose lives he hopes to improve”.
A little over Sh100 million has been paid by the buyers as booking fees alone, an amount Ngari described as too small for his interest as it would be “stooping too low”.
He, however, acknowledges there have been major delay in getting the project done because it required heavy machinery that are expected from Italy.
David Kariuki Ngari commonly know as Gakuyo speaking in Kiambu town on Wednesday when he officially launched his bid for the Kiambu Gubernatorial position
“I will deliver the houses as promised since the crushers have finally been installed,” said the preacher-turned-business mogul who founded Thika Calvary Chosen Centre, a church, in 2001.
Ngari said his firm, Gakuyo Real Estate, has acquired several parcels of land in Nanyuki, Kiambu, Kajiado and Machakos.
“I have many parcels of land where I will eventually build thousands of homes for all the poor people who registered with me,” he said, adding that he had enough money to put up 5,000 homes as promised but warned it could take more than three years to complete. The initial promise was 12 months.
Ngari, popularly known as Gakuyo, has expressed interest to vie for the Kiambu governor’s seat. But his candidature has been contentious with questions raised about his education certificates.
His profile indicates that he started his preaching ministry in 1980 at his village in Munyu, Nyeri County, three years before he is reported to have sat for his Certificate of Primary Education.
His certificate is at the centre of an ongoing investigation. He has described the fake certificates allegations as the work of his political detractors who aim to bring him down after he acquired a chopper at Sh200 million that would be used in campaigns and “other personal adventures”.
In a letter addressed to the Standard Group, Principal Secretary - Ministry of Cooperatives Ali Noor Ismail said investigations have been launched following allegations relating to fraud at Gakuyo Real Estate.
“The State Department for Co-operatives through the Commissioner for Co-operative Development has already dispatched an inspection team of officers to investigate the affairs and operations of the society with a view to verifying the complaints raised by the members,” he said.
A biting housing shortage in the country, exacerbated by high urbanisation rates, has placed homes as highly prized possessions.
While it remains unconfirmed whether Bishop Ngari’s housing plan is a scam, it helps paint a picture of just how desperately Kenyans are dying to own their own homes.
The preacher said he was ready to refund anyone who is disgruntled with the delays, but added that such refunds would only be effected if the claimant has all documentation illustrating how and when the savings were made.
But with more than Sh3billion of “free money” under his watch for more than a year, Gakuyo and Ekeza could still have earned handsome returns in interest and profits – even if it meant returning it to the savers today.