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Lawyer defends 421 families in land dispute dogged by deaths

Rift Valley
 Chairman Nakuru Workers cooperative society Peter Ndungu testifying at Environment and lands court in Nakuru before Judge Anthony Ombwayo on September 18,2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A lawyer has defended the sale of a 63-acre land in Pipeline Estate, Nakuru

Sylvester Muhia on Monday told the Environment and Land Court that he acted for the 421 families occupying the property in the sale agreement with Thuo Commercial Agency.

The families, who were members of the Nakuru Workers Cooperative Society, paid Sh2.6 million in three installments between May 2 and July 11, 1990, to acquire the property.

Muhia, however, regretted that the agency, despite signing the agreement, disowned it and refused to receive the balance due for the transfer of the property.

“The agency and the society entrusted me to preside over the transfer. I drew the sale agreement, and all transactions went through me. However, at the last minute, the agency directors changed their mind,” he told Justice Anthony Ombwayo.

The lawyer said the agency directors led by David Thuo (deceased) frustrated the transaction, leading to a property dispute that has lasted for over 30 years. The families, which have now grown to over 4,000, cannot process title deeds.

According to Muhia, the society paid Sh1.1 million as the first installment. He said he gave the money to Hamilton Harrison and Mathews Advocates firm.

He said when the payments hit Sh2 million, the agency started demanding more. “On May 2, 1990, Thuo wrote to me, demanding Sh700,000 from the society, instead of the 600,000. I reminded him of the sale agreement, but he remained firm,” he said.

To ensure no major dispute arose, Muhia said the society decided to pay the Sh700,000 through him.

However, he claimed that despite writing a letter to Thuo to conclude the transfer, he refused to do so.

“It was an agreement that after the last payments were made, Thuo had to give consent for the families to occupy the land,” he said.

He further testified that Thuo had no right to delay the families’ occupation of the land, having received all the money from them.

Muhia said that Thuo, who refused to sign the consent for the transfer, instructed a surveyor to subdivide the land but at the same time did not want the families to occupy it.

In cross-examination, Muhia said Thuo’s wife declined to sign the agreement.

Three 1990 letters produced as evidence in the case show that Thuo approved the allocation of the land to the families.

However, Thuo’s son Maina Ndua sued the society, claiming that the full amount of money was not paid and his father did not approve the transfer.

When he testified in February last year, Ndua could not explain how he knew that payments were not completed in 1990, when he was only in primary school.

“I took over my father’s company when he got ill,” he told the court. He wants the families to be evicted from the land, or in default, pay the balance.

In defence, the society members claim that after receiving Sh2 million, Ndua refused to receive the balance on time in an alleged ploy to ensure they defaulted on payment.

Evidence in court shows that 10 people, including six society officials, have lost their lives while others have been reported missing.

Dead officials include former secretary David Gitau and Beth Wachie, who was shot in 2017, and Wellington Oduor, former treasurer, who was gunned down outside his house in November 2016.

Others include Collins Ochieng, a former secretary, Tom Theuri and Paul Njogu.

The hearing proceeds today.

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