A Nairobi-based Farmers’ Cooperative Society is in distress following the sale of their property worth over Sh500 million by a government-appointed liquidator against their will.
Drumvale Farmers Cooperative Society which was established in 1963 and originally owned parcels of land totalling 14,000 acres and had operated without any major hitches until the members approached the government for assistance.
They reckon that going by a recent valuation of their assets conducted in 2017 that about 255 acres broken into blocks of five acres at the time valued at Sh1 million a piece have been sold. They are appealing to President William Ruto to come to their aid.
The farmers’ trouble started when the Sacco wrote to the Commissioner of Cooperatives in 2009 seeking assistance to subdivide its land among 1,472 registered members.
Some of them were old and a number had died while others were ailing.
At the time, the members wanted to be assisted to elect new officials so that they could subdivide their 14,000 acres of land in Nairobi and Mavoko.
Each member was entitled to one acre of land in Nairobi and a five-acre parcel in Mavoko.
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The society also had over Sh6 million in two bank accounts, as well as in Treasury bills. In a letter to the Commissioner of Cooperatives, the members lamented, “Sometimes in 2007 the existing members of the society wrote to the Commissioner of cooperatives seeking among other things the commissioner’s assistance to revamp the society to profitability.
“The letter to the Head of Civil Service, they observed, “turned out to be the greatest mistake and what followed was a blatant abuse of office, plunder and abuse of trust.”
Although at the time the society did not have creditors, bank loans or debts to be paid, it was nevertheless put under liquidation following the cancellation of its registration by the Commissioner of Cooperatives on August 28, 2009.
This was followed by the appointment of Mr Peter Wanjohi, a cooperatives officer, as a liquidator and marked the beginning of the sale of their assets which included tracts of land. Unhappy with the disposal of their property by the liquidator, the members filed a case at the Cooperative Tribunal Court (No.720 of 2016).
The tribunal gave orders restraining the liquidator from transferring, selling, leasing or alienating any property belonging to Drumvale Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd.
The orders directed the liquidator to avail the records disclosing how he has dealt with the assets of the society in the liquidation process under section 68 of the Cooperatives Act.
However, the liquidator appealed to the high court but his petition was dismissed in September 2018 by Justice B.M Eboso, who referred the matter back to the tribunal court.
“To date, Mr Wanjohi continues to act in utter contravention of the express orders of the tribunal whose authority is derived from the same that appointed him,” the officials say.
When The Standard contacted the liquidator, Mr Wanjohi, he confirmed that he had been appointed to oversee the affairs of Drumvale after it was deregistered.
But he was unwilling to explain whether he had sold the land or other assets. “I do not want to comment about the sale of assets. I am a former liquidator because the society has been reinstated. Please talk to the Commissioner of Cooperatives. He is the only one now authorised to speak about this matter,” Wanjohi observed.
A gazette notice No.8428 published on July 15, 2022, issued by the Commissioner for Cooperatives Development Mr David Obonyo reinstated Drumvale Farmers Cooperative Society to full registration.
This was after the commissioner revoked the 2009 notice de-registering the cooperative society.
“In exercise of the powers conferred to the Commissioner for Cooperative Development under section 62(1) of the Co-operative Societies Act, the Commissioner for Co-operative Development vide a cancellation of Registration order dated August 28, 2009, cancelled the registration of Drumvale F.C.S. Ltd,” the notice read in part.
“The Commissioner for Co-operative Development further revokes the said cancellation of registration Order and reinstates Drumvale Farmers Cooperative Society (CS) 998) full registration,” reads the notice dated July 6, 2022, signed by the Commissioner for Cooperative Development David Obonyo
The matter at one point reached the then Agriculture and Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya who wrote to the Deputy Head of Public Service Musiambo Wanyama in a letter dated July 4, 2022.
The letter directed the Commissioner of Cooperatives to lift the liquidation of Drumvale, conduct a general meeting of the society and have the liquidator account for all the proceeds from the sale of the society’s assets. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) waded into the matter after receiving complaints from the society members.
EACC also wrote to the Cooperatives Principal Secretary on July 25, 2019, asking the PS to establish the veracity of the allegations and furnish the commission with findings.
They are concerned there has been massive grabbing of their land in Nairobi and Athi River and now want the matter investigated and their assets recovered.