The battle for the Sh5.7 billion payment for the Halal Meat Products Ltd abattoir has brought to the fore the final chapter of Kenya’s long-running scandal, and the efforts to have the money released.
In court papers, Mr Ramadhan Juma Ali, who claims to be a debt collector, and Mr Mohammed Ali Motha’s son, is demanding a 35 per cent stake in the government payout, in line with a debt-collection contract.
Mr Ali says that Mr Motha hired his Tasara Investments in January, 2016, to procure legal services and follow up with government agencies to ensure that the award was paid in full.
“Prior to instructing the firm of Kithure Kindiki, I had instructed the firm of Miller & Company Advocates to follow up on payments from the government. It is quite unfortunate that after winning the appeal, Mr Motha and Halal Meat Products have cut any communication with myself in an attempt to do away with me after successfully offering my services to them,” Mr Ali says in suit papers.
Mr Ali also claims in a separate suit that Mr Motha gave him and his brother, Mr Juma Mohammed Motha, power of attorney over assets and four bank loan accounts in 2014. Mr Motha was allegedly unwell at the time.
Mr Ali says he is owed Sh150 million for stopping several attempts to grab or auction prime properties owned by Mr Motha through Mafuta Products Ltd.
“In several instances, Mr Ali had to stop the banks from attaching and selling Mafuta Products’ assets when Mr Motha was ailing and unaware of what was happening in the company. He even had to redo an illegal subdivision by Omondi Waweru Advocates, who had been brought in by Mr Motha himself,” lawyer Duncan Okatch says in suit papers.
But Mr Motha now says he has never given anyone power of attorney. He further claims that Mr Ali is not his son, but a nephew.
As the Motha family fight deepens, several questions remain over the arrangements that made the government finance the construction of the Halal abattoir 45 years ago.
Our efforts to trace the white elephant project revealed that many Ngong residents do not know where it is.
After nearly half an hour of asking, we found a boda boda rider who directed us to a relatively new building with several shops. He said that is where the abattoir stood until about 2014, when it was brought down and the land transferred to businessmen.
Shortly afterwards, two police officers in plain clothes approached us and demanded to know why we were taking photos of the building. After identifying ourselves, they directed us to another facility adjacent to the upcoming Nairobi-Naivasha stretch of the Standard Gauge Railway.
There the gatekeeper took down our details and asked us to talk to a woman named Purity, who was in charge.
“Kuna shida hapa? (Is there a problem here?),” the gatekeeper asked, before pointing to where we could find Purity.
The first building we entered in our search for Purity clearly showed that no meat had been processed there for a long time.
The building had the kind of rails usually used to hang meat, indicating that we were inside what should be a cold room. But inside were several men and women hard at work, making sofa sets.
The woman in charge of the group directed us to another building, where we finally found Purity.
As we were identifying ourselves and trying to find out whether we were finally at the failed abattoir project, she received a call.
“They are journalists and they say they are looking for a slaughterhouse,” she said to the person on the other end of the line before walking back into the building.
“Yes, I am Purity and I am in charge. But this is private property and the owners would prefer that it remains private,” she said before walking away.
As we left, it was evident that the gatekeeper had been scolded on phone, since he did not want to engage in small talk with us.