Puzzle: So many sittings but no solution on Ruaraka land

By Geoffrey Mosoku | Monday, Aug 13th 2018 at 00:31
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Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, NLC chair Muhamad Swazuri and Afrison Import and Export Ltd MD Francis Mburu. [File, Standard]

Is the controversial Ruaraka land private or public? This is the question investigators are grappling with as Kenyans wait for the verdict of the on-going probe.  

Although the 13.5 acres of land where Drive-In Primary and Ruaraka High schools stand is public, State agencies have only provided documents showing the land is private.

The documents now cast doubts on the veracity of claims that the land is public, having been surrendered 30 years ago. This has left investigators with the difficult task of unearthing facts to corroborate an internal report by the Education ministry that gave ownership of the land to the two schools.

The Lands ministry and the National Land Commission (NLC) have all issued documents showing the 96-acre land is private and registered to Afrison Export & Import Ltd and Huelands Ltd, associated with businessman Francis Mburu.

On May 14, NLC placed restrictions on the title, saying the State had already paid for part of the land in three instances: Sh1.5 billion for the schools and compensation for Thika Super Highway and Outer Ring Road expansions.

Original title

Entries on the original title show conveyancing was conducted on December 30, 1981 when Joreth Ltd transferred the property to Afrison and Huelands for Sh14 million.

On July 31, 1986, Drive-In Estate Developers placed a caveat on the land, claiming mortgages interest. And on September 1, 1986, Country Building Society also placed another caveat.

The caveat was withdrawn on February 9, 1987 but a prohibitory order dated August 11, 1994 was registered in the Nairobi Magistrate Court.

On June 10, 1997, a Commissioner of Income Tax notification of Sh5 million charge was entered.

A second prohibitory order dated February 16, 1994 was recorded on March 1, 1995, with another prohibitory order dated February 24, 1997 being registered on November 13, 1997.

Last month, NLC Chairman Muhamad Swazuri convened a press conference and said facts about the compensation had been twisted by the media and other entities.

Prof Swazuri said records at the Lands ministry indicated the owner had objected to the subdivision of the 96-acre piece of land by the City Council of Nairobi on April 8, 1984.

“This is the letter that people are relying on to say that the land was surrendered. There was no surrender, and if somebody has that surrender, let them bring it to us.”

Swazuri termed claims that the process of acquiring the plot was hurriedly done as misleading, saying there was a court ruling in 2012 that confirmed the land belonged to Mr Mburu while awarding the businessman Sh4.1 billion, yet no one appealed the verdict.

And in 2015, he said when Mburu petitioned the commission, a public notice was placed but not even the ministry came to claim the land. He added that a parliamentary committee had earlier carried out a similar inquiry and established the land was private.

Held responsible

Last week, a parliamentary report recommended that two top State officials be held responsible for the loss of the Sh1.5 billion paid for the land.

The Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee also want Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang investigated.

The committee criticised Dr Matiang’i and Dr Kipsang for ignoring the recommendations of a report by the Education ministry that established that the land was public.

In addition, the committee recommended that Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, within three months, investigate the circumstances that led Matiang’i and Kipsang to ignore the ministry’s report.

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