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Kitui to get a spanking shopping mall after minister kicked out

EASTERN
By Philip Muasya | May 29th 2021
The site in Kitui town where Wendo Shopping Mall worth Sh850 million is being put up. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

At the heart of Kitui town on a one-acre piece of land, construction has started to put up a modern shopping mall, whose completion is set to change the face of the county headquarters.

Construction of Wendo Shopping Mall began three weeks ago. For years, the land was at the centre of an ownership controversy.

An investigation report by the Ministry of Lands in 2019, established that Checker Oil Products Limited legally owns the prime piece of land.

The other two parties, who were also claiming ownership, chief among them Kitui County Assembly Speaker and one-time Cabinet minister George Ndoto, were declared “squatters and trespassers”.

On May 23, 2019, Checker Oil wrote to Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney requesting a probe on the plot’s ownership. This was due to a protracted tussle between the company, on one hand, Ndoto and Samuel Kimondo Theuri.

The CS set up a three-member committee composed of deputy chief lands registrar, Kitui county lands registrar and assistant county lands registrar, who asked the three claimants to produce their documents.

According to a six-page status report dated December 31, 2019, it was established that the land was originally allocated to Ndoto, when he was a minister during the Kanu government vide letter of allotment dated June 22, 1989.

But Ndoto did not accept the offer and failed to pay the requisite legal fees for 10 years.

His letter of allotment was then revoked by the Commissioner of Lands.

“Although the plot was initially allocated to him, the same was withdrawn for failure to meet the statutory conditions of the allotment… his rights (to claim ownership) were legally extinguished by the commissioner of lands,” the report signed by P N Muriithia, the deputy chief land registrar reads in part.

Letter of allotment

The architectural design of Wendo Shopping Mall. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

Mr Theuri produced a letter of allotment dated January 7, 1997, a certificate of lease and a title deed.

The inquiry established that there were no supporting documents at the lands registry to show how he acquired those documents. His documents were thus declared fake.

Checker Oil Ltd, on the other hand, produced an allotment letter dated June 25, 1998 that “had automatically cancelled the earlier one issued to Ndoto”.

The company also produced a letter of acceptance and a receipt of payment of Sh108,000, the required legal fee paid on August 8, 2002.  

After the findings, the Cabinet Secretary directed Kitui Lands Registry to expunge any other parcel files from their records and retain the parcel file in the name of Checker Oil Products Ltd.

Ndoto was found to have no documents of ownership and declared a trespasser on the land “whose claim on ownership should not be entertained.”

About three weeks ago, John Malinga, a former councillor with the defunct Kitui Municipal Council was arraigned at a Kitui court and charged with forcible entry and malicious damage to a perimeter fence on the land number 1/658 belonging to Checker Oil Products Ltd. The matter is pending in court.

On May 25, Ndoto confirmed to The Standard that the former civic leader, who operated a welding workshop on the plot was one of his several tenants. He cited others as a hotel, several shops, a car wash and a church.

The former minister, now serving as Kitui assembly speaker and who has been laying claim to the land, insisted that he has documents to prove ownership. This is despite reports that the county government is willing to offer him an alternative land.

“I was given the land by the government in 1989 and I have been using it…there are tenants there under my authority. I have been paying land rates for that plot over the years, even now, I owe the county government Sh2 million in arrears which I have not paid because there are pending court cases on the land in Machakos. Anybody who thinks I don’t have documents, let’s meet in court,” the Speaker said.

However, according to James Oketch, a lawyer acting for the investing company, there is no active case in any court over the land ownership.

“Currently, Checker Oil Ltd is legally in possession of the property. If there was any court case we could not have started the project,” he said.

According to the design proposal, the Sh850 million four-storey mall is set to host an array of businesses including motor vehicles showroom, banks, supermarkets and restaurants. Already, a leading supermarket is the anchor tenant. Fitted with elevators, the mall will have an open air market for Kamba artworks covering 1,000 square metres.

“This investment is about economic empowerment. The project will not only attract investors to the region but also create jobs for the local youth. Our vision is to create a robust and thriving environment for residents of Kitui and environs to access social amenities and facilities,” said the company’s CEO Wilbroda Peter, adding that the mall is geared towards changing lives for the better and the face of Kitui town.

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