After losing 200 acres of land and buildings worth Sh32 billion to an entity controlled by some leading Kiambu millionaires, a public institution in Kiambu County now risks forgoing a Sh2.2 billion project after Germany threatened to walk out of the financial deal — unless the land is restored to the institute.
It will be a double setback for the Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), after the government was slow to restore the ownership of the institute’s land that was illegally transferred to an entity known as the Registered Trustees of Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology, thus leaving the college with no land.
In a letter dated March 8, 2019, the German Development Corporation has now written to Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge threatening to abandon the multibillion-shilling project unless the government restores the institute’s land.
“As you are aware”, wrote Dr Kalus Liebig, KfW’s Nairobi office director, “the requirement of article 11.5 of the Separate Agreement to Loan Agreement states that the government of Kenya ‘shall ensure that the premises where the new buildings under this project will be built are in the property of the respective TVET institute.
“Currently, neither KfW nor GIZ can start any activity before the legal requirement described above is met,” said the letter.
The land in contention is now controlled by the trustees, who include former commissioner of lands James Raymond Njenga; former chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers Allan Ngugi; and Nairobi lawyer George K. Waruhiu.
The others are quantity surveyor Kimani Mathu, who is Liberia’s Honorary Consul to Nairobi, and former Nairobi town clerk Joseph Njuguna Thairu.
In October last year, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki issued a legal opinion on the matter, saying this is public land and “the trustees should transfer it for vesting in the institute”.
But with the slow progress of the transfer, the German government has now given a deadline of June 1, 2019 and says that “after this date, we would have to agree on a different technical training institute to replace KIST in the program.”
KIST was founded as a public institution in 1971 through the initiative of President Jomo Kenyatta. The land on which it stands — an acre in the area goes for Sh100 million — was initially in the hands of trustees, who included then Attorney-General Charles Njonjo, State House Comptroller Eliud Mathu, Nairobi mayor Margaret Kenyatta, businessman James Njenga Karume and East African Power and Lighting MD Julius Gecau.
Others were University of Nairobi vice-chancellor Josephat Karanja, lawyer Samuel Waruhiu, pioneer medical doctor Joseph Mungai and Archbishop Obadiah Kariuki.
KIST was officially registered on May 1974 as a company limited by guarantee, which meant it was a public not-for-profit entity. Four years later, in 1978, the registered trustees transferred the title LR 81/32 to Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology Limited to secure the land.
The transfer was witnessed by Mr Njonjo, Miss Kenyatta, Mr Gecau and Mr J.K. Koinange.
Documents show that after a new law was passed — the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act, which took effect in June 2013 — to protect public institutions’ land, the Registered Trustees of Kiambu Institute, who also doubled as board members of Kiambu Institute, started a process of transferring the KIST land from the public institution to an entity not recognised under the TVET Act. The TVET Act only recognises the board as the custodian of a public institution.
When the matter was first broken by the Nation, Mr Ngugi and Mr James Raymond Njenga dismissed the story as “malicious and highly defamatory” and insisted that “at no time in its history was the land ever owned by the college”.
In response, Mr Ferdinard Waititu, then a candidate for Kiambu County governor, stormed the college and closed down the trustees’ office, promising to take up the matter after the election.
Also, students at the college took to the streets to protest.
On their part, the trustees took a paid advert in the newspapers to defend themselves: “It is unfortunate that senior citizens of this country, some of whom have served Kist in different capacities for over 40 years, should be ridiculed and falsely accused as ‘barons’ who have ‘grabbed’ public land, which they are appointed to protect.
“Their grandchildren, who are the students at the institute, have been incited to demonstrate against them and to believe that the trustees are, indeed, thieves.”