Inside man's will that barred sale of 750-acre farm at centre of row

A tent at Ndonga farm IDP camp in Subukia. [File, Standard]

Six months before his death, Benjamin Wamanji Njoroge wrote a will detailing all his wealth and went further to distribute it.

The estate worth millions included vast parcels of land in Nakuru and Kericho counties, farm machinery, cattle, and money held in two bank accounts. The property was to be distributed amongst his three sons and eight daughters.

Wamanji died on December 2, 1993, leaving behind a will dated May 29, 1993.

The beneficiaries were his sons Owen Ndungu Njoroge, Philip Kamau Njoroge and Muchunu Njoroge. The daughters were Irene Kanyi, Mary Mugo, Wangechi Mburu, Winnie Muthoni, Hellen Nyangati, Zipporah Waringa, Hariet Wanjiru, and Loise Wanjiku.

Owen, however, passed on before the distribution of the estate.

Kamau was declared executor of the will and personal representative of the estate. He was also declared the signatory of bank accounts at Standard Bank and a savings account at Kenya Finance Corporation. He was to close the savings account and transfer the money to Standard Bank.

Kamau was to use the money to pay wages, surveyors fee, legal fees and any other expenses pertinent to the administration of the estate.

In his will, Wamanji first distributed a 750-acre farm in Subukia. Owen inherited the homestead and 70 acres of surrounding land. Owen was also bequeathed another 200 acres, a portion of which had coffee on it.

Kamau and Muchunu were to each get 200 acres of the Subukia farm, while each of the eight daughters was allocated 16.2 acres.

Wamanji had a 100-acre farm in Londiani. He gave Wangechi 30 acres and directed that the remaining 70 acres be shared equally among the rest of the daughters.

He bequeathed his Gakoe farm to Kamau, a plot in Subukia shopping centre to Owen, and a plot in Rongai shopping centre to Muthoni’s daughter.

His farm machinery was to be divided equally among his three sons. Owen, Kamau and Muchunu also inherited 110 cows each, while the sisters got five cows each.

“Any debt I may be having at the time of my death not accruing from estate administration expenses to be repaid by my son Philip Kamau Njoroge,” read the will in part.

Wamanji also directed that Muchunu should not sell his land without consent from his children and two brothers. He did not give a reason for his decision.

Court documents seen by The Standard show that Muchunu’s four children had in the year 2005 sworn an affidavit claiming they had learned that their father had secretly entered into an agreement to sell part of the inherited land.

“Our father has not consulted us and he was expressly forbidden by our grandfather from selling without consulting us,” said Simon Kimani Muchunu.

Further reading of Wamanji's four-page will revealed detailed instructions of how his estate should be handled if one of his children died.

"I direct that if any of my children dies and is survived by children, his/her share shall be held by his/her children or children surviving them, or grandchildren will inherit,” read the will.

Part of this property is the 750-acre Ndonga Farm land that has been at the centre of a court dispute between beneficiaries of the estate, the government, and post-election violence victims.

The government acquired the land in 2011 and settled over 200 internally displaced persons. The eight sisters, their sister-in-law and a niece contested the sale and claimed their brother Kamau had transferred the farm without consulting them.

The transaction purportedly entered into between Kamau and the government through the Settlement Fund Trustee was not reflected in the certificate of confirmation of grant and no application to rectify the certificate was made in the succession cause.

Kamau’s alleged meddling with the estate led the 10 women to court in June last year where they sought orders to have him removed as administrator of the estate.

The women had named the Attorney General, principal secretaries in the ministries of Lands and Special Programmes, and their brother as respondents in the case.

Philip Kuria Njuguna and 256 others representing the IDPs were named as interested parties.

The petitioners said they were shocked to learn that Kamau had entered into an agreement to sell and transfer the farm.

Justice Joel Ngugi, now Appellate Court judge, in a judgment last month ordered the substitution of Kamau as estate administrator with Irene Kanyi, Zipporah Waringa and Mary Wangari. The court also ordered that a certificate of grant be issued.

“The 4th respondent, Philip Kamau Njoroge, is hereby removed as the administrator of the estate of Benjamin Wamanji Njoroge (deceased),” read the judgment read by Justice Hillary Chemitein on behalf of Justice Ngugi on January 26.

The court further ordered the respondents to surrender to the court the original title deed to Ndonga Farm pending the conclusion of the distribution of the estate.