Former President Daniel arap Moi was paid Sh500 million by a private developer a month ago for land claimed by the United States International University-Africa (USIU-A).
The eight-hectare (20-acre) parcel in upmarket Muthaiga North Estate is now hotly disputed, with the university community going to the streets to protest the “grabbing” of its property.
George Kiongera, a Kenyan residing in the US, said he bought the land from the former President and does not, therefore, recognise the university’s claim.
USIU-A Vice-Chancellor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, however, said the land belongs to the university.
Meanwhile, Dr Kiongera has obtained court orders to keep Riley Services Ltd, a security firm contracted by the university to guard the property, out of the land and replaced them with his own workers, including guards.
Riley is now restrained from setting foot on the property for 14 days, pending the hearing of the case on July 26.
On Tuesday, Dr Kiongera produced documents showing the transfer of the land from Mr Moi to Maestro Connections Health Systems Ltd on June 6. He owns the company with his wife Elizabeth Njeri.
Mr Moi was represented by lawyer Jinaro Kibet of TripleOKLaw Advocates in the transaction while lawyer Albert Ondieki acted for Dr Kiongera.
Mr Ondieki said he was involved in the transaction from the start and had conducted due diligence with TripleOKLaw. He said: “I’m surprised people have emerged to claim ownership. I visited the institution (USIU-A) but was met with very rude reception.”
Prof Zeleza said USIU-A has “always owned the land”, situated next to Balozi Estate in the prime Nairobi suburb where an acre of land can fetch upwards of Sh80 million.
The don said the land was invaded last Saturday, when “a large group of armed people pulled down the university’s demarcations and notices”.
He narrated: “In a bid to seek police intervention, the university visited the Kasarani and Muthaiga police stations to lodge a formal complaint.”
Prof Zeleza added that there had never been any claim to the land until June 29, when “the management board received information that unauthorised persons were frequenting the land purporting that they were the owners”.
The university head recalled: “We also beefed up security by posting guards during the day and at night and partnered with Kasarani Police Station to increase patrols.
“We then proceeded to place a caveat emptor ("buyer beware") notice [in the newspapers], notifying the general public that the land is owned by USIU-A and is not up for sale.”
Mr Kibet told the Nation that he represented the former President during the transactions and that he had “acted on the instructions of the seller; so what he (Dr Kiongera) is saying is correct”.
Said the lawyer: “I’m not aware of the claims by USIU-A, although I’ve seen some of it in the social media.
“If you look at the caveat emptor in the newspapers and the title that Dr Kiongera presented, the plot numbers are different. Those are two different pieces of land and I cannot know where the issue is coming from.”
USIU-A identified its different pieces of land as LR Nos 12597/2 and 27800, adjoining Balozi Estate in Muthaiga North; and LR Nos 12765, 25302/1 and 25302 situated behind Safari Park Hotel.
LAND GRABBING CARTELS
But Dr Kiongera identifies his land as LR No 12422/19, saying any other registration number is a “phantom”. He further accuses unnamed senior members of the university staff, working with land-grabbing cartels and unscrupulous officials at the Land ministry, of attempting to steal his property.
“They are trying to use USIU-A to grab the land from me,” said Dr Kiongera. “This land was sold to me through President Moi’s lawyers, his son (Baringo) Senator Gideon (Moi) and Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat.
“They facilitated the transactions throughout since August last year. The transaction was above board.
“Exactly one week after it was concluded, I visited the site and found security guards, who told me they had been positioned there to protect it from land grabbers. To me, the grabbers are those who placed the guards there.”
In a statement, Prof Zeleza said he had instructed external counsel “to expeditiously pursue all the legal avenues available to secure the university’s interests”.
Dr Kiongera rebutted: “It is very unfortunate that these vicious land grabbers are trying to use a reputable institution as a cover.
“USIU-A is innocent. I hope common sense will prevail on the management of the institution not to use vulnerable children to advance the cause of land grabbers.”
Kithure Kindiki Associates, the law firm associated with Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, helped the developer to secure finances. One of its lawyers, Boniface Mutwiri, told the Nation that the firm had ascertained that the land was, indeed, owned by Mr Moi before advising its client to go ahead with the purchase.
“We conducted due diligence and, from the search at the Lands offices, everything was proper,” said Mr Mutwiri. “The property, in our view, was owned by the former President.
“USIU have not presented any document. In the caveat [emptor] placed in the paper, they talk about a completely different property.”