A company linked to two former top government officials has been ordered to hand over 400 acres of disputed land to a widow.
Almer Farm Limited, linked to former State House comptroller Abraham Kiptanui and ex-Water Development minister Kipng’eno arap Ngeny, had moved to court to challenge National Land Commission’s (NLC) decision to hand the land to the woman, Betty Rono.
Justice Mwangi Njoroge, of the High Court in Kitale, dismissed Almer’s case against Betty and NLC as lacking merit.
The judge found Almer had not filed its case properly and also ordered it to pay the costs.
“The dispute herein should have therefore been subjected to an appeal as the first point of call before any other court action such as a judicial review. In light of the foregoing, I find that the notice of motion dated April 9, 2019, is improperly before this court and there is no need of delving into the rest of the issues for determination,” ruled Justice Njoroge.
He noted that although Kiptanui was reportedly Almer’s director, he did not go to court to complain that NLC had not given him a fair hearing.
It all started when Per Bogelund Jensen, a white settler who owned 1,198 acres, decided to sell it before leaving the country in 1982.
Upon learning of Jensen’s plan to sell his land, former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott, Mr Kipng’eno arap Ngeny and Mr Kiptanui came together with a view of acquiring the land.
The trio formed a company named “My Company” which reportedly purchased the land from Jensen for Sh5.8 million. The land was later transferred to them and immediately charged to Kenya Commercial Finance Limited that had loaned them the money.
Court records show a committee was formed to oversee the property. People were invited to take part in the purchase of the land to help offload the loan that had been used to acquire it.
Members were to get a share of the land-based on their contributions and the number of people they managed to convince to join the project in efforts to clear the loan.
One of those who took part in the project was the late David Rono, whose widow, the court has ordered, should be handed 400 acres by Almer.
Rono was said to have contributed Sh300,000 towards the project which reportedly entitled him to 25 acres.
Almer Farm Limited sued NLC Rono’s widow Betty and the Chief Lands Registrar, arguing Rono paid the money on behalf of a group of people (shareholders) he had brought into the project.
In an affidavit he filed on behalf of Almer, Kiptanui claimed he later learnt that Rono had promised one Daniel Some Metto 120 acres.
Later, the then District Commissioner of Trans Nzoia resolved that 13 acres of Rono’s land is what would be given to Metto. The remaining land would be shared equally among the rest of “Rono’s shareholders”.
Kiptanui told the court he was merely a director of Almer. He said Rono was not a director of the company and that there was no time that he, Biwott and Rono, agreed to share the property equally, each getting 400 acres, as had been claimed.
The court heard that since there was an outstanding loan, it was agreed that each member contributes after which the property would be divided in a way that would accommodate a further 306 members.
Betty complained to NLC county coordinator that she had not been given the 400 acres her husband was to get as per their agreement. After the hearing, the chief lands registrar ordered that Almer should hand her 400 acres.
Kiptanui had claimed there was a separate finding by NLC directing that he should restitute to the estate of Rono, 400 acres.
NLC defended its decision of February 7, 2012, arguing it gave all parties a fair hearing. NLC went further to conduct investigations, including a visit to contested land. It argued that the Almer’s case lacked merit.
Betty, in her reply, told the court Almer never bought the farm. Instead, she said, it was her late husband, Biwott and Kiptanui who bought the land after which they would each get 400 acres. She claimed that the firm did not give its own money. The widow said it was Kiptanui and Kipng’eno who formed the company and transferred the land to its name.
She said it was Kiptanui, as the director of Almer, who was expected to effect NLC’s order thus there was no conflict between the commission and the lands registrar. She asked the court to dismiss the case, adding NLC had given all parties an opportunity to argue their cases.