Cases of people losing houses that previously belonged to the defunt Nakuru Municipal Council in Kivumbini and Flamingo Estates to cartels are growing everyday.
Esther Wairimu who lost her husband two years ago suffered at the hands of a cartel that renders their targets homeless and allocates the houses to new occupants who pay them.
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“My husband died at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital in February 2016. Before I could leave the hospital a county enforcement officer called me asking for any other documents that I have for the house,” said Ms Wairimu.
The words “any other document” meant that the officer was already in possession of other documents. She immediately took a taxi home and got a rude shock. People whom she thought would stand by her had colluded with the county officials to take ownership of the house in which they had lived with her husband for over ten years.
“I found my in-laws and the county official, Moses King’ori having accessed the house without my knowledge. They had ransacked the house and confiscated all documents including birth certificates, title deeds, lease receipts and my husband’s National ID,” said Wairimu.
The relatives told her to pack her belongings and leave behind all that belonged to her husband. There was an ugly confrontation that was reported to the police. The police were kind enough to offer protection as she removed her items from the house and was taken in by a friend as she sought shelter some place else.
What she thought would be sorted out in a few days after the burial of her husband has led to years of legal battle with the house already sold to a third party. “I went to the housing director who referred me to the Sub County Administrator Zachariah Njeru. Our planned meeting that would bring me and the in-laws to the negotiating table two years down the line has never materialised,” said Wairimu.
The County Secretary Joseph Motari directed the County Executive in charge of Lands and Housing to assist her.
“This is not right. The house belonged to the deceased who was the husband to the complainant. Kindly take up the matter and assist the family,” reads a letter stamped “Received” on August 31, 2016 by the County Secretary.
To add to her pain, she was referred to the same officials who had sided with her in-laws to take over the house.
In yet another case, Emily Wairimu lost a house she had been living in since 1986 in Baharini estate after the ownership was illegally transferred to George Njoroge, a man who was to be her son-in-law.
“After acquiring land elsewhere, I moved out and left my daughter to live in the house. In 2012, she got married to a man well known to me and they had one child. They later broke up and my daughter left the house,” Ms Emily said.
Despite presenting to Mr Njeru documents dating back to 1986 as evidence of being the rightful owner of the house, the matter is yet to be resolved.
As the county government sought to have the tenants “own” the municipal houses a legalisation process was undertaken and the house was awarded to Emily in February 2014.
Just like Esther, Emily raised the matter with Mr Motari who in a letter seen by Saturday Standard directed King’ori to have the house handed over to her.
The county official who then worked at the Rent Enforcement Unit allegedly demanded Sh10,000 from her to waiver the arrears that had accrued to Sh16,000 and help revert the ownership of the house to her.
“Since it has been the norm of the officials waiving the arrears I thought it was the same process. I sold a fridge which fetched Sh5,000. I gave the whole amount to King’ori and he did nothing,” claimed Emily. King’ori, in a letter dated August 12, 2015 as required by Motari acted on the matter by directing Njeru to hold a meeting with the two parties adding that he had barred both from accessing the house.
Emily however said that this was false as Njoroge continued to live in the house and when she raised the issue with the same officials they brushed her off.
This forced her to seek more money to offset the bill which she paid in two installments in October and November.
Records obtained from the Rent Enforcement Unit indicate that she made payments of Sh9,000 on October 12 and another Sh7,000 on November 2 fully settling the arrears.
The matter took a new twist in July last year after the house ownership was changed and the house is now under the name of the man who broke up with her daughter. “I went to process a statement of my arrears last year but the document read a different name. This is evidence of the fraud that is going on since I never signed any agreement to transfer ownership,” Emily said.
She disclosed that the house is currently occupied by another family, though the ownership is still under Njoroge.
Nakuru Tenants Association General Secretary Newton Akanga said the two cases are just a reflection of the suffering many people are undergoing at the hands of the cartel.
Mr Akanga regretted that despite being a registered group, the officials have failed to recognize their role towards the recovery of the grabbed houses. “The officials have been using the delay tactics to deny justice to the complainants. We are aware of money changong hands to frustrate our efforts,” he said.
The delay allows the houses to be transferred to secondary parties further complicating the recovery process.
When reached on phone, King’ori said that he was transferred and the aggrieved parties should now go court to have their issues addressed.
“Am aware of the allegations but I wish not to respond to them. Am no longer working in the same area and you should now advise them to go to court,” he said.
On his part Mr Njeru said that the cases are still pending in their offices but promised to work on them.
“Some of these cases are so complicated. There are also incidents of people selling the houses without written agreements,” he said.