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Widow’s fight to reclaim grabbed property

FITNESS
By | May 27th 2009

By Amos Kareithi

Five years ago, a 70 -year-old widow, Hannah Wairimu Njuguna, jetted to US to join her five children for what she thought was a much deserved vacation. She planned to spend two months there.

But barely before she had settled, Wairimu, who had departed on October 28, 2004 got the shock of her life. On December 17, 2004, her brother, Wycliffe Waweru Thandi called her marking the beginning of a nightmare that has lasted five years.

He called with information that tenants in her commercial house in Eastleigh’s First Avenue had been evicted over a Sh300,000 rent arrears. "This did not make sense to me. I had been receiving Sh90,000 monthly rent from my tenants promptly every month as per our lease agreement. I thought Thandi did not know what he was saying and almost ignored him," Wairimu recalls. The following day, Thandi told his disbelieving sister that her building, which was then operating as a lodging under the trade name Bonus Square, had been sold. To make matters worse, Wairimu heard that new tenants had moved in and that it was impossible to access the premises.

Hannah Wairimu and her brother Waweru Thandi during the interview. Thandi was the caretaker when her property was allegedly grabbed.

"On that day, an auctioneer came accompanied by three armed police officers. They started evicting tenants but I told them the house had not been sold," Thandi explains. He adds: "They showed a distress order purportedly obtained by Wairimu authorising eviction of the current tenants over a three-month rent arrears."

Meanwhile, Wairimu cut short her travel, and returned to Nairobi.She found her brother had already reported the matter to Pangani Police Station vide OB number 64/21/12/2004. But the officers refused to record a statement from Thandi, prompting him to proceed to Kasarani Police Station. No arrests were made.

"When I went to the Ministry of Lands Office and did a search on the property, I found documents detailing the alleged sale to a Mr Ali Noor Abdi for Sh29 million on August 9, 2004," Wairimu says.

Faking of signatures

A city law firm purporting to be acting for Wairimu, signed and witnessed documents on behalf of Wairimu’s company.

Wairimu says at the time, she was in America and had never contracted any law firm. "Why would I want to sell a property which was giving me Sh90,000 a month? In fact I was planning to construct a shopping mall once the contract with the tenant expired but this was never to be," she adds.

At Ardhi House, she learnt that her property had not only been sold but also a forged title had been presented. It was allegedly used by the new claimant to obtain a Sh20 million loan from a bank.

The purported sale agreement seen by CCI for the plot Land Reference number 36/V11/498 Eastleigh, measuring 0.2392, shows the money was to be paid in instalments with an initial deposit of Sh2.9 million being paid to Wairimu’s ‘lawyer’. Interestingly, the signatures of Wairimu and her son, Thandi Njuguna, were affixed in the agreement although the latter had left Kenya in 1999.

Wairimu says her son has not set foot in the country since 1999.

Wairimu at Eastleigh pointing to the property from a distance. Photo/ Jennifer Wachie/Standard

On April 29, 2005, Wairimu wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Lands requesting them to cancel the fake title deed. On June13, 2005, the Criminal Investigations Department wrote to the Commissioner of Lands indicating that an impostor who had forged Wairimu’s national ID and signature had sold her land.

Chief Inspector Jeremiah Ikiao, from the Banking Fraud Investigation Unit wrote that on January 1, 2005, they received complaints from Wairimu, as a director of Kaniango Investment Limited that her plot in Eastleigh had been illegally transferred. Subsequent investigations revealed that at around July 2004, a fictitious person posing as the administrator of the estate and calling herself Hannah Wairimu Njuguna presented a copy of a title deed to the Chief Land Registrar with an intention to transfer the said plot to a Mr Ali Noor Abdi.

"The said fictitious lady was represented by the law firm of Daniel Ndung’u Company Advocates who also signed the deed of indemnity to the chief registrar and hence the said plot transferred to the alleged new owners without consent of the complainant," Ikiao wrote.

Obtaining loan

The CID further found that after the transfer, the title deed of Wairimu’s plot was then used to obtain a loan of Sh20 million.

"In view of the above, we kindly request you to revoke or expunge the current indenture (title) under the names of Ali Noor Abdi and maintain the status quo to the names of Kaniango," Ikiao added.

After the CID investigations, Daniel Ndung’u was charged that on November 5, 2005, at Ardhi House in Nairobi knowingly and fraudulently he uttered to Cyrus Wambugu Ngatia, a forged deed of indemnity purporting it to be a genuine deed for parcel LR no. 36/V11/498 signed by Hannah Wairimu Njuguna. He was charged with a second count of forging a sale document purporting the land had been sold to Abdi at a cost of Sh29 million and a third charge of forging Wairimu’s national ID.

Five years after the charges were prepared and the lawyer arraigned in court, Wairimu has never regained her property and has never set foot in the premises. Some guards she had detailed to watch over the property were kicked out.

On February 1, 2006, Mr John Michuki, the then minister in charge of Provincial Administration and Internal Security directed the then Nairobi PC to use his machinery to deal with the culprits.

The lady reoccupied her property but after only four days the premises was raided by armed goons. The thugs were arrested and booked at Pangani Police Station. To her surprise the suspects were released without charges.

"I have been to every office in the country. I have written to all government offices. What is a 70-year-old widow supposed to do to regain her property? Who will ever compensate me?" she wonders.

She says there have been attempts to compel her to sell the building and that some senior officers from Attorney General’s office are being used to sweet talk her but she vows never to rest until all those involved the plan to disinherit her are punished.

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