The gaping hole that is now the Pinnacle Tower

President Uhuru Kenyatta lays the foundation stone of The Pinnacle (formerly Hass Towers). It is to become Africa's tallest building. Beside him (left) is the Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. [File, Standard]

When President Uhuru Kenyatta laid the foundation stone for construction of The Pinnacle Tower on May 23, 2017, there was a palpable enthusiasm for what was to become Africa’s tallest building.

Just over three years later, the developers are running in circles as authorities pursue them, the lofty dreams having stuck under the ground.

After relentless court battles, rumours of mooted change of design and numerous threats of arrest for the developers, The Pinnacle Tower finally failed to take off.

And just this week, National Construction Authority Executive Director Maurice Akech sent a warning notice to Jabavu Village Limited, the real estate arm of Hass Petroleum Group which, together with Dubai-based White Lotus Group, was developing the skyscraper.

Warning to developer

“The authority hereby orders the developer, Jabavu Village Limited, of the construction site on Plot LR No 31/219 in Upper Hill, Nairobi County, to immediately undertake remedial actions to restore the site and that of the neighbouring properties within 14 days of the date of this notice,” wrote Akech.

“Jabavu Village Limited is further notified that in event of failure to comply with this order within the stipulated timeline, the authority will recommend prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” he warned.

It is not the first time developers of The Pinnacle Tower have been threatened with court action. If anything, they are used to the lingo, the battles having started as early as 2017.

The High Court, in February 2019, issued a warrant of arrest for Mohamud Mahat Noor and Poosapati Ramachandra Raju Sita – the real estate tycoons behind the construction of The Pinnacle Tower – after they failed to appear for sentencing in a contempt of court case.

The couple, running White Lotus Group, had violated earlier court orders to stop the construction over disputed ownership of the prime land.

Ugandan tycoon James Mugoya, owner of Kingorani Investments Ltd, and a trust started by former United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, sued Hass Petroleum Group, claiming ownership of part of the land the skyscraper was being set up on.

Court order

But even after the court ordered cessation of activity on January 9, 2017, and October 16, 2017, excavation continued.

Bogged down by these court battles, The Pinnacle Tower was never going to make it into the skies, at least not fast enough.

The Pinnacle Tower was supposed to be the tallest building in Africa at 320 metres, leading in the race for the skies in an incredible way in a rapidly rising Upper Hill. It was to dwarf the tallest two buildings in Kenya – Britam Towers (200.1 metres) and UAP Old Mutual (163 metres).

With 67 floors above ground and four below, The Pinnacle Tower was to cost upwards of Sh20 billion. The Skyscraper Centre, which is maintained and updated by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, described the building function as residential, office and hotel.

The Pinnacle Tower was to house a 45-floor Hilton Hotel with 255 guest rooms. It was the dream building for a city soaring into the skies by the day.

But now, the foundation lies in a despicable mess in the middle of Upper Hill, attracting the ire of relevant authorities.  

A general public notice on deep excavations published on September 1 saw NCA give 30 days to all developers “who have dug up excavations more than three metres deep to submit a report detailing the slope stability, how they are monitoring the excavations and detailed studies on how the excavations are affecting adjacent structures”.

What would be Africa’s most notable construction is now a ruinous mess, threatening lives and leaving the founders fighting battles they did not anticipate just over three years ago. And authorities are on their necks, demanding accountability and bracing for battle.

Neighbours of the site have complained that houses near the unfilled excavation have developed cracks, creating fears that they may end up crumbling altogether. This happens due to lateral displacement of the soil.

On the issue of environmental degradation necessitated by the uncovered and unattended excavation, the National Environment Management Authority Director General Mamo Boru could not be reached for comment.