Three-year battle between county assembly and bar owner over building

Nyeri County Assembly has for the last three years been trying to eject a bar next to its chambers. Members of the County Assembly have in the past complained that noise from the Unity Bar and Restaurant, disrupts their proceedings.

The entrance to Unity Bar and Restaurant within Nyeri County Assembly premises. The property, previously leased out by the defunct County Council of Nyeri, has been the subject of a three-year court battle between the assembly and Benson Kinyua, a wealthy businessman. Kinyua refused to vacate after the lease expired in 2013 citing huge costs he had incurred in renovating the premise. PHOTO: MOSE SAMMY/STANDARD

The bar was leased out for business by the defunct county council but attempts by the assembly to eject the owner Benson Kinyua from the property have proved futile. Recently, there was a scuffle and one person was seriously injured.

The property was initially leased to Christopher Gitu, now deceased, for six years ending September 30, 2013. But before the lease expired, Kinyua, on June 8, 2012, signed a deed of assignment with the deceased’s widow, Jane Wangechi. He paid Sh720,000 to Wangechi and agreed to be bound by the all the terms of the original lease agreement and remit a monthly rent of Sh 30,000 to the council.

Court records show that about eight months later, Kinyua requested for repairs and renovations in the property whose approximated cost was Sh131, 625.

Since the council did not have funds to undertake the repairs, it authorised him to use his own money which would be offset through rent waivers.

After three months, Kinyua received a letter from the interim Clerk to the Assembly notifying him of the impending expiry of the tenancy agreement.

“We shall not be renewing the agreement as we intend to take over the premises for the exclusive use of our honourable members. We therefore request that you vacate the premises by the end of the day, September 30, 2013,” reads the letter dated July 8, 2013.

Alarmed, Kinyua filed an application at the Nyeri Law Courts arguing he would suffer irreparable damage if he is ejected. In addition, he said the cost he incurred in repairs and renovations had not been fully offset and therefore he was entitled to remain in the property without paying rent.

Kinyua’s application was, however, dismissed by Senior Resident Magistrate Joan Wambilyanga on grounds that his tenancy ended with the expiry of the lease and the damages he would suffer could be compensated.

Unfazed, Kinyua got reprieve at the Environment and Lands Court which set aside the lower court’s ruling and issued an injunction pending the hearing and determination of the suit. This prompted a successful appeal by Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua, through lawyer Wahome Gikonyo at the Court of Appeal.

The ruling was delivered on May 20, 2015 by judges Philip Waki, Roselyn Nambuye, and Patrick Kiage.

Since then, there has been spasmodic tension at the premises with the County Assembly allegedly intimidating workers at the business premise and barricading the main entrance.

On January 7, Kinyua obtained a court order directing the Clerk to the County Assembly to allow him access the premises.

His representatives clashed with the assembly’s security officials during which one person was seriously injured.

The battle continues.