A battle is brewing between a group of land owners and directors of a land buying company which owned majority share in the expansive Kedong’ Ranch in Naivasha.
Muhotetu Farmers, mainly comprising Mau Mau descendants, are enraged at the decision to sell their 40.66 shares in the 75,000 acres’ ranch soon after it emerged that the standard gauge railway would be traversing the property.
The bitter farmers say their directors hatched a scheme to sell their shares at a paltry Sh2.1 billion to a third party when it emerged that the planned Naivasha dry port was to be constructed on the same piece of land, sidelining them from a hefty compensation deal from the government.
The group has now petitioned the National Assembly to scrutinise the deal riddled with irregularities beyond its disputed value of Sh2.1 billion in a move that may stand on the way of the mega port to be set up in Naivasha.
The largely vast and bushy piece of land become attractive to investors seeking to make a kill from the sleepy farmers tucked miles away in Nyahururu once the second phase of the SGR started.
The scheme was well planned by first locking out the shareholders from any annual general meetings for five straight years.
The directors then made the scheme to sell the shares and divided the members so skilfully that they could hardly unite to push back.
Last year, some scheduled AGMs were cancelled at the last minute with court orders being flashed as divided members were influenced into staying away from such meetings. Meanwhile, a deal was brewing.
Just when elections campaigns were heating up last year, some farmers started receiving invites to collect cheques and when the message spread that others had been paid, they trooped to collect theirs.
For poor villagers in Nyahururu, cheques in the upwards of Sh400,000 were godsend.
Little did they know that they were being fed remnants of the multi-billion deal.
By this time, the SGR line had passed through the piece of land the 500 farmers jointly owned and the fat compensation was no longer coming their way.
The Naivasha dry port, for which the government recently allocated Sh3.4 billion, was also going to sit on the property, another missed opportunity.
Transaction details also show that while Newell Holding Limited bought the shares on August 23, 2017, farmers started receiving cheques drawn on August 2, meaning the money preceded the sales; another twist that makes the shareholders suspicious that the directors may have played a dirty trick on them.
It remains a mystery how the money got into the bank in the first place without supporting documents like a sale agreement.
Apart from facing a long lock out without any AGM in five years, the farmers claim that the directors disregarded their long standing guideline that any sale of shares were to be first offered to members before a third party was invited to buy.
“We pray that the Senate probes whether there is a conspiracy to dispossess shareholders of Muhotetu Farmers Company of their shares and thus ensure they are locked out of the compensation by the government when it compulsorily acquires land for the dry port and the SGR,” read the petition presented on Wednesday.
A similar petition sent to the President’s Harambee House office also wants the value of shares determined at the time of sale as the farmers believe the property may have disposed at more than ten times below its worth.
One of the Muhotetu Farmers directors, Mr William Gathecha, however dismissed the allegations saying the sale of the shares was approved by the shareholders.
“What are they complaining about? Did they say how much they wanted the shares to be sold for? All I can tell you is that we sold the shares after members approved in September 2013 that they be sold. Don’t ask me any more questions. Go and ask those who bought the shares if you want more details. Thank you," Mr Gathecha retorted before hanging up.
Muhotetu Farmers Company Limited was formed from a land buying outfit immediately after independence.
The descendants of freedom fighters came up with the name from their original homes, Muhoya and Tetu, in Nyeri County.
The aggrieved shareholders’ spokesperson, Mr Joseph Mathenge said there has been several land grabbing stunts on the group that also owned various pieces of land in Nairobi and the Rift Valley.