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Scandal of the jinxed land in Ruaraka

Friday July 20 2018

Francis Mburu

Businessman Francis Mburu. An affidavit has been filed in a case in which the EACC has opposed plans to stop civil or criminal proceedings in relation to the Ruaraka land, saying it would defeat the investigations being carried out by the commission. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOHN KAMAU
By JOHN KAMAU
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The Ruaraka land saga is one of the most convoluted cases, with twists that have in the past months bewildered observers like a jinxed piece of earth.

The main question has been whether city businessman Francis Mburu and his company, Afrison Import Export Limited, got compensation for a land that had been surrendered to the government before the development of the housing units today occupied by the General Service Unit (GSU) officers.

On the land in question stands Ruaraka High School and Drive-inn Primary School, which still have no title deed to the parcels they occupy, but are clutching on allotment letters.

1982

Originally owned by Joreth Limited, the 96-acre LR No. 7879/4 was bought by Afrison Import Export Ltd and Huelands Ltd on December 30, 1981 and was on the same day used as collateral to secure a loan of Sh21 million for the construction of 500 maisonettes for the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation.

Government officials told a parliamentary committee probing the matter that Afrison, through their development company, Drive-In Estate Developers, sought approval for a subdivision scheme in September 1982 and they got a conditional approval. The condition was that Afrison should surrender 10 per cent of the land for social amenities for subdivision to be undertaken the land.

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SUBDIVISION

Mr Mburu would tell the parliamentary committee investigating the matter that his Drive-In Estate Developers Limited did not agree with the conditions set by the Town Planner and that they cancelled the planned subdivision “due to fear that the City Council wanted to use the set conditions to grab the land from the owners”.

The question today is if Afrison built maisonettes on the other part of the land – and which Mr Mburu has already been compensated – did he develop the land without any approval from the Town Planner?

Further, Mr Mburu told the parliamentary committee that the government did not acquire the GSU maisonettes but “went ahead and illegally cordoned off the land for public use.”

Detectives have been interested in the age of the letter purporting to cancel the planned subdivision and dated March 5, 1984.

COMPENSATION

The other jinx was that shortly after Mr Mburu mortgaged his land to Continental Credit Finance Ltd, it went under and was put under receivership. This forced the Kenya Posts and Telecommunication (KPTC) to secure a second mortgage of Sh165 million against the title to complete the stalled housing project.

Interestingly, also experienced financial hiccups on this land and out of the planned 500 units only, 196 houses were completed. It is these houses which were taken over by the GSU and which Mr Mburu sought and got compensation.

Apparently, even though the ministry paid Sh64 million to KPTC, it never got the title to the land which remained in the name of both Afrison and Hueland. The matter got more complex after GSU fenced another 30 acres for security reasons – a matter that had been in various courts before Mr Mburu and Treasury agreed on a compensation of Sh2.4 billon as full settlement.

LINK ROAD

While this initial payment had been queried by the Auditor-General, it was Afrison’s return to seek compensation for the land occupied by the two public schools that is at the centre of the current row.

Why the National Land Commission compensated Afrison for the Ruaraka High School and Drive-Inn Primary School land, yet the title for the land is still in the custody of the receiver and Messrs Harit Sheth and Co. Advocates, the advocates for the registered owners of the land, is also an issue that parliament was looking at.

In the spotlight are those who handled the compensation. They include NLC chairman Prof Muhamad Swazuri, the then Education Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiangi, and his former Principal Secretary Mr Belio Kipsang. MPs were satisfied that Prof Swazuri started the whole thing after receiving a complaint from Afrison.

It has now emerged that the total compensation for Mr Mburu’s land – including money paid for the expansion of the link road - is at about Sh9.8 billion.