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How state agency was duped to surrender Weston land

NAIROBI
By Cyrus Ombati and Geoffrey Mosoku | November 1st 2018
Weston Hotel. [Edward Kiplimo/Standard].

A State agency was duped into surrendering the land where Deputy President William Ruto built Weston Hotel, it has emerged.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), which originally occupied the land, was given alternative parcels of land that turned out to belong to another State agency.

On July 3, 2001, former Commissioner of Lands Sammy Mwaita allocated KCAA plots L.R No.9187 and L.R No.9188 through letter reference No.51776/XVI. KCAA paid Sh3,530 through cheque No.005174.

KCAA yesterday told the National Land Commission (NLC) that it never took possession of the alternative land because it belonged to the Meteorological Department.

The issue of the alternative land was raised by Mr Ruto’s lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who told the NLC panel that KCAA, then known as the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA), was granted land elsewhere.

The lawyer, however, could not link the alternative land to Weston’s interest, saying it was up to the Government to decide how it allocated land to entities.

“KCAA was involved in this matter all along and they had actually relocated to L.R. No.9187 and L.R. No.9188. We have submitted the documents that were used to relocate the (DCA) stores in 2002,” Mr Abdullahi said.

The agency now claims that a powerful cartel operating in the Lands ministry, which was working in cahoots with its own officers, conspired to relinquish the land.

“The land mentioned by Senior Counsel (Abdullahi) belonged to the Meteorological Department. The KCAA management and the board have never at any one time consented, agreed, relinquished or surrendered nor ceded the plot by way of sale, transfer, gifting or otherwise given it to any other person,” company secretary Cyril Wayong’o said.

Vacated land

Mr Wayong’o was, however, taken to task to explain the circumstances in which the agency vacated the land in 2002, which initially housed central stores for the corporation, and how two firms were allocated the 0.7 hectares (1.7-acre) land on Lang’ata Road.

“Our brief claim is that this property was initially alienated and set aside for Government use and specifically for the development of KCAA headquarters. It was lost under mysterious circumstances and allocated to a private developer,” Wayong’o told the NLC panel.

He claimed that unauthorised officers working under instructions from some officials in the Lands ministry ordered the removal of the KCAA equipment from the stores, and the matter had been referred to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) in 2008. However, to date, the EACC had yet to bring closure to the issue.  

“The KCAA management on 23rd October 2008 reported this matter to the then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to file a suit of recovery of this critical land. KCAA also requested investigations on the officers who were involved in moving of its equipment,” Wayong’o said.

But Abdullahi accused KCAA of misleading the NLC on its claim, saying the agency had even approved the construction of a hotel to a certain height because it was near Wilson Airport.  

Documents provided by KCAA to NLC indicated that DCA used the land for its stores. On June 29, 1999, the Commissioner of Lands asked the DCA to comment on an application to build a church on the contested piece of land.

The DCA, however, rejected the request vide a letter dated July 8, 1999, indicating that the land had been earmarked for the construction of KCAA’s headquarters.

On July 19, 2001, the Commissioner of Lands wrote to the Ministry of Tranport and Communication seeking DCA’s recommendation on an application for the allocation by Kibaki Homes Limited.

The ministry, in a response dated August 22, 2001, affirmed that the property belonged to DCA and was not available.

According to the Transport ministry, the Government was set to transfer the land to KCAA, once established, so that the agency could set up its headquarters.

The Commissioner of Lands went ahead and moved the DCA Central Stores located on the piece of land – now registered as L.R. 209/14372 – on September 26, 2002.

On October 1, 2002, a KCAA assistant director, Eng. B. Amukowa, communicated the decision to move the DCA stores from the Weston land. On October 2, a junior DCA officer, A.N. Gatta, was assigned the responsibility of coordinating the relocation barely a month before KCAA was established on October 24.

Wrote letter

On the same day, Amukowa wrote to the officer in charge of Air Navigation Services in a memo captioned “Special Assignment” asking him to report to the DCA central stores to coordinate the removal of the agency’s equipment to another location.

KCAA says it established on August 2008 that the Weston land had been registered as L.R. 209/14372 in September 2002 and issued to Priority Limited and Monene Investment Limited.

Yesterday, Wayong’o, who insisted that the two officers were under investigation, could not explain to the NLC their fate. “You should be able to tell the commission whether EACC ever responded to your request and what happened to the officers. Were they dismissed or promoted?” the NLC acting chairperson, Abigael Mbagaya, asked.

The NLC concluded the public hearing on the Weston land saga and is expected to make a determination before the end of the year.

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