Court orders Government to pay private firm Sh19 billion for taking its land to settle squatters

High Court Judge Justice George Odunga. [File, Standard]

The Government has been ordered to pay a private firm Sh19 billion for taking over its land to settle squatters.

This is more than three times the initial amount the State was supposed to pay Orbit Chemicals Limited but failed to do so.

The High Court 0n Thursday decreed that the Government settle the debt of Sh6.02 billion plus interest accrued from 2012.

Justice George Odunga ruled that the State had not satisfactorily explained why it had delayed to honour its end of bargain. “In my view, the reasons advanced by the respondent for the failure to satisfy the decree are flimsy excuses meant to deny the applicant the fruits of its judgement and I have no reason to decline to grant the orders sought herein,” Justice Odunga ruled.

“As our politicians now say it ought to have made the necessary arrangements to facilitate the availability of funds without even waiting for these proceedings to be instituted.”

In 2012, Justice Edward Muriithi allowed Orbit Chemical Industries Limited to pursue the amount awarded to it after the Government took its 95 acres in Embakasi to settle squatters.

The initial amount awarded by Lady Justice Roseline Nambuye in 2012 was Sh6 billion, but the company told the court that the interest had accrued to Sh19 billion.

The company asked the court to force the Government to settle the dues within 14 days. “The Attorney General and Solicitor General have refused to pay the amount even when the interest continues to grow. They need to pay us now to save public funds from further wastage and end their unnecessary delaying tactics...,” said the company’s director, Sachen Chandaria.

According to Mr Chandaria, the company wanted to develop the land in 1987 but the Government forcefully took possession of it and put a caveat on it, denying it access.

In 2004, the company moved to court, seeking to be allowed back on the land. Then High Court Judge Jackton Ojwang agreed with their arguments and ordered the Government to remove all the squatters they had resettled on the land and return it to the firm.

However, the Government proposed that instead of evicting the people, they could negotiate an out-of-court settlement to compensate the company.

Several reminders

After several years of negotiation and the Government’s position that it had to seek approval from Treasury before agreeing to any amount due to the company, they settled on Sh6 billion as the total amount that should be paid.

The agreement was presented in court before Justice Nambuye, who then issued a judgement in 2012 compelling the Government to pay the amount at an interest rate of 14 per cent per annum.

The company argued that despite several reminders, the Government has refused to honour the decision, forcing it to seek fresh orders.

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