Francis Mburu
Francis Mburu

The Evans Kidero government nearly paid a businessman at the centre of the Ruaraka land saga Sh23 billion, as it emerges that City Hall acknowledged the property was not public, as now claimed.

Internal memos from City Hall’s legal department seen by the Star indicate county government lawyers under Kidero’s administration held that Francis Mburu owns the land and should be compensated.

One of the memos from Erick Odhiambo, City Hall’s legal affairs assistant director, states the county illegally allocated several plots to individuals who developed the multibillion-shilling property.

The memo is addressed to Odhiambo’s boss, the legal affairs director.

The lawyer suggested that City Hall compensates Mburu’s firms — Afrison Export Import Ltd and Huelands Ltd — which are registered as the owners of the 58.6 acres of land.

Other than Drive In Primary School and Ruaraka High School which occupy 13 acres of the disputed land, Odhiambo said in the memo there are several buildings whose legal status cannot be confirmed.

He added that Barclays Bank and Rafiki Enterprises have developments on the larger 58.6 acres.

“From the records available, there was a subdivision carried out in 1985 on the said parcel but was never finalised; thus the individual registration of the resultant subplots was never carried out. This would appear to be the reason why we still have the LR No.7879/4 still in the records.”

“.. City Council of Nairobi did not have any business allocating the said land to individuals… It has been in local dailies that the government has compensated the said owner to the extent of the parcel in occupation by the GSU. Imperatively, it will be best for the county to do equally the same,” Odhiambo says in the memo.

This appears to be the same position taken by Interior CS Fred Matiangi’s ex-legal advisor Martin Oloo, insisting land records clearly indicate the parcel is private.

“The registrar of titles confirms that Ruaraka land L.R No. 7879/4 measuring 96 acres is private freehold land in the name of Afrison Import Export and Huelands Ltd as joint owners,” Oloo said, noting the position has been affirmed in three different court cases.

Oloo accused the Senate of ignoring a court order which ruled the land belonged to the claimant and should be paid Sh4 billion as compensation. This follows a Senate report that wants Matiang’i and PS Belio Kipsang held responsible for approving Sh1.5 billion payments for the land.

“Who carries more weight in establishing land ownership; a Ministerial Quality Assurance Committee or a constitutional body that is the National Land Commission?” he said.

Mburu said he reached an out-of-court deal with City Hall, which had agreed to pay him Sh23 billion for the land. The deal, he claims, was to see City Hall pay him over five years which would mean annual installments of Sh4.6 billion.

Government paid Mburu Sh2.4 billion between 2012 and 2017 following a court battle. The amount was negotiated down from the court-ordered Sh4.2 billion. But the payment was for the 37.4 acres occupied by the GSU. The memo has contradicted Governor Mike Sonko’s insistence that City Hall’s records indicate that the land is public.

Sonko and his officers — Lands executive Charles Kerich and Urban Planning chief officer Julius Kathenge — told Parliament last month that City Hall’s records show Mburu does not own the land. The internal correspondence has further deepened the mystery, as Parliament probes whether Mburu owns the land, or was paid by government several times for the same property.

In 2011, another internal memo from City Hall’s chief valuer identified as KJ Ayiecho to the assistant legal director also states Mburu owns the land, after purchasing it from Joreth Ltd.

In the same year, the land was the subject of Parliament proceedings, when Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny questioned why government used public funds to pay land rates for private property.

But former Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojode said the Sh20 million payment was made to stop City Hall from auctioning the land to recover due rates which Mburu was unable to pay. Ojode added that government was then unable to compulsorily acquire the land because there were ongoing court battles over it.

The former assistant minister, who died a year later, held that government intended to acquire an additional 20 acres to put up housing for police officers. Mburu says he bought 96 acres in 1981, and was to put up housing units for Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation staff.

But the deal aborted after Continental Credit Finance, which had given Mburu a loan to carry out the project, went under. KPTC also dropped its interest in the project following financial troubles.

The DCI and EACC could arraign up to 25 people over the Ruaraka land, arguing the payment Mburu received was a scheme by officials in City Hall, NLC, and Lands and Education ministries to swindle money.

Source: The Star