Man seeks to stop Rigathi Gachagua from demanding legal costs in land suit

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [File, Standard]

An 80-year-old man wants to stop Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua from demanding Sh32 million as legal costs for defending a land dispute case.

John Michael Ohas, through lawyer David Ngala, claims he is bedridden and broke after retiring from public service and cannot raise the amount of money which was taxed as legal costs payable to the DP.

“He is now an old man of over 80 years, has been sickling for over two years and is now very ill and bedridden. Whereas Mr Gachagua is now demanding Sh32,346,680 as legal costs, Mr Ohas stands to lose irreparable loss for something beyond his control,” said Ngala.

Mr Ohas, a former director of physical planning at the Ministry of Lands, is also seeking to reinstate his original suit where he sued the DP and his company, Wamunyoro Investments Limited, for claiming ownership of the disputed five-acre land in Embakassi valued at Sh1.5 billion.

But Gachagua, through lawyer Philip Nyachoti, accused Ohas of abusing the court process by seeking to stop taxation of legal fees which had been approved by the court and to re-instate a matter which he had withdrawn.

“His application is hopelessly incompetent, totally misplaced, grossly misconceived and an abuse of the court process. The court has no power to order for reinstatement of a withdrawn suit which makes his claims fatally defective,” said Nyachoti.

The hearing of the application before Environment and Land Court judge Anne Omollo was however marked with confusion after another law firm, MMA Advocates, filed another application claiming they are the ones representing Mr Ohas.

According to the law firm, Ohas had not instructed Ngala to file the suit against Gachagua and wants the court to ignore it.

Lady Justice Omollo directed the former land official to sort out the issue of the law firm that will represent him in the case and directed that the matter proceeds on November 16.

The dispute relating to the land near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport dates back to 2012 when Gachagua says he acquired it from Karandi Farm Limited and Peter Mbugua at a cost of Sh24 million.

The DP swore he assumed possession after the title was registered in his name but was surprised in 2016 when Ohas filed a complaint at the National Land Commission (NLC) claiming that he owned the land.

“He claimed that he acquired the land in 1994 but after careful analysis, the commission dismissed his claims and found that my title was legally acquired,” said Gachagua. According to the DP, Ohas used his position at the lands’ ministry to interfere with the records and had the title registered in the name of his company, Columbus 2000 Ltd in 2019.

After the NLC ruled in favour of Gachagua, the former land official filed a suit in court against the DP to challenge the decision but withdrew the suit leading to the DP’s claims for Sh32 million in legal costs.

Since Mr Ohas had the title registered in his company’s name, Gachagua has filed another suit seeking to revoke the title and have the land reverted to him.

Mr Nyachoti told the court that Ohas took advantage of his position at the ministry of lands to illegally transfer the land’s title to Columbus 2000 Limited. “The property is currently valued at Sh1.5 billion and was used by Gachagua as security to obtain a loan of Sh200 million from Equity Bank. Refusing to register him as the land’s owner is causing him losses,” said Nyachoti.