Rogue Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) officials might have colluded with those in the Lands ministry to give a private entity the land on which Weston Hotel in Lang’ata stands.
The authority is now fighting to repossess the land, measuring about two acres, which, until 2002, hosted a store belonging to the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA). The authority says some of its staff facilitated the illegal transfer of the property to third parties.
On Wednesday, KCAA’s Legal Services Manager and Corporation Secretary, Mr Cyril Wanyong’o, told the National Land Commission (NLC) that the authority's management and board never transferred the ownership of the land to any entity or individual.
Mr Wanyong’o told the sitting presided over by NLC Vice-Chair Abigael Mbagaya that, had the authority felt that it no longer needed the land, it would have surrendered it back to the government.
The lawyer told the commission that, despite the authority’s directive to have developments on the land removed, Weston Hotel, whose directors include Deputy President William Ruto, continues putting up structures on it “in total disregard of the law”.
But Mr Ruto’s lawyer, Mr Ahmednasir Abdullahi, argued that his client had followed due process in acquiring the property.
Mr Abdullahi argued that after a conflict over the land’s ownership arose in 2015, the National Assembly's Public Investments Committee noted that KCAA had shown no proof that it owned the land.
He told the NLC panel that Mr Ruto acquired the land in 2007 for Sh10 million from its registered owners, Priority Management Ltd and Monene Investments Ltd, who had a genuine title deed.
KCAA is seeking to have the commission revoke the titles initially registered under Monene Investments and Priority Ltd and later transferred to a "private developer’.
The authority argued that the two alternative plots allocated to it by the Ministry of Lands were already occupied by the Kenya Meteorological Department.
In a sworn affidavit, KCAA said that neither the DCA nor the Ministry of Transport, under which the DCA fell, ever sought the title deed for the property because of the government policy at the time.
“In June 1999, the commissioner for lands wrote to the DCA, indicating receipt of an application for the construction of a church on this parcel of land and sought the DCA’s comments. “The DCA, in its response dated July 8, 1999, took note of attempts to interfere with the property and objected to the allocation of the property to any person, as it was earmarked for the construction of its headquarters,” KCAA said.
In 2003, the Permanent Secretary for Transport and Communications, Mr Sammy Kyungu, wrote to the KCAA director-general, alerting him that developments were taking place on the property, and that the authority’s store had been moved.
He later wrote to the Ministry of Lands and Settlement, requesting that KCAA be given a title deed for the land, and that any allotment to any other party be revoked.
The developer, referred to by the affidavit as "unknown and shadowy," started work on May 26, 2003, but stopped after the warning by KCAA. They later resumed work until KCAA asked the commissioner of police to help it evict the developer.
KCAA said that in 2002, it learnt that the developers were Monene Investment and Priority Investment Ltd and thus reported the matter to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, to file a suit for the recovery of the land. The authority said the principal registrar of titles never responded to its letters.
It then wrote to Weston Hotel on June 29, 2009, asking it to remove its developments on the land, but in vain.
The authority’s lawyers later agreed that filing a suit to recover the property would be difficult because of insufficient documentation, so they opted for revocation of the titles.
After hearing the submissions, the commission asked for time to determine the matter.