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Puzzle of secret change of land ownership titles at Ardhi House

Rift Valley
 Ardhi House that houses the Lands Ministry and National Lands Commission Headquarters in Nairobi. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Do you own a parcel of land, and how often do you check on the registration status? If not, you have a reason to worry, as the documents in your possession could only be pieces of paper.

‘Ghosts’ have infiltrated the land offices and mysteriously taken over possession of land, causing the disappearance of crucial documents and changing ownership.

Samuel Chege knew he was a legitimate owner of land in Naivasha, having been issued with a title deed in 2016 after his father transferred it to him.

On January 27, 2020, and February 7, 2020, he said he obtained certificates of search that confirmed he was the registered owner of the property.

On December 20, 2022, he conducted another search to secure a loan facility but was informed by the land registrar that the Green Card of the suit property had been cancelled.

Distressed, he filed a case at the Environment and Lands Court in Nakuru and sued the land registrar, Naivasha.

Chege, in the petition dated January 11, 2023, said he was not given any reason for the cancellation.

He further stated that he was not given a certified copy of the cancelled register when he asked for it. 

He said he was not notified of any complaint against his ownership of the suit property and was not served with any application or proceedings seeking to challenge his ownership.

He accused the land registrar of acting unilaterally.

Green Card

The court noted that the land registrar did not enter an appearance despite being served. The land official was expected to explain why the Green Card was cancelled.

Justice Omollo Lynette, in a judgment delivered last week, ruled in favour of Chege and declared the decision by the land registrar to cancel and destroy the register of the land unconstitutional, null and void.

“A declaration is hereby issued that the respondent’s action violates the petitioner’s (Chege) rights to acquire and own property and not to be deprived of the same under Article 40 of the Constitution, the right to fair administrative action under Article 47, and the right to a fair hearing under Article 50 of the Constitution,” ordered the court.

The court ordered the land registrar to create another register bearing similar entries and information as the destroyed register and specifically show Chege as the proprietor of the suit land as per the destroyed register.

In another case, a company found itself in a similar situation after establishing that the parcel of land it was allotted by the government had a new owner.

Amza Limited claims it was allotted the land on June 8, 1999, by the government and confirmed the acceptance on June 5, 2002, and paid the required fees. A survey was carried out in 2002 and it was issued with Registry Index Map to facilitate the preparation and issuance of title deed.

Court documents indicate that in September 2018, when the company followed up at the Ministry of Lands in Nairobi to register the parcel of land in its name, it was informed the file was missing and advised to visit the Land's Registry at Nakuru and conduct a search.

In a twist and shockingly, the company conducted a search and established that the land was registered in the name of Daniel Waithanji Mwangi.

Mwangi allegedly caused the suit land to be registered in his name and a certificate of lease issued on June 30, 2005.

Court documents indicate that Mwangi later charged the suit land to Equity Bank (Kenya) Limited and the title deed was registered in favour of the bank.

Amza Limited said the new development took the plaintiff by surprise as he has never, to the best of her knowledge, signed any agreement for sale and transfer document in favour of any party in respect of the suit property.

The company was at a loss on how its property could have been fraudulently transferred to third parties without his knowledge or consent and filed a suit in court and named Daniel Mwangi, Equity Bank and chief land registrar as respondents .

Mwangi denied the allegations in the suit, and filed a counterclaim saying he is the owner of the suit property and that the company’s title has been extinguished.

He claimed he purchased the property from Tabarin Hauliers Limited vide agreement of sale dated May 30, 2005.

The court noted that there was no evidence as to how Tabarin Company Limited, which was not made a party to the proceedings, obtained the title.

Moreover, the company did not execute the transfer of property.

Justice Anthony Ombwayo noted that though Mwangi is the registered owner, the title was acquired unprocedurally.

Allotment letter

“The plaintiff (Amza Limited), having been issued with an allotment letter and having paid the requisite fees, the property was not available for allocation to another person, and therefore, the 1st defendant (Mwangi) could not obtain title in the same property,” ruled the court. 

The court directed that the title deed to the suit property issued in the name of Mwangi be cancelled and Amza Limited be registered as the owner.

Mwangi was ordered to vacate the property and remove any structures on the suit land within 90 days.

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