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Developers feel the pinch of crackdown on land grabbers

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Developers feel the pinch of crackdown on land grabbers

Twalib Mbarak (left) with Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
Ethics and Anti-Corrup­tion Commission chief executive Twalib Mbarak (left) with Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The anti-corruption commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are on the spot for “frustrating” private developers through the placement of caveats on land suspected to have been acquired irregularly.

The investors, according to cases filed in court, are protesting delayed completion of investigations into the properties.

Some of the investors have moved to court seeking orders to force the two government watchdogs to lift the caveats placed on their properties to pave the way for their development or disposal.

For instance, a private investor has sued the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) for failure to complete investigations into the ownership of a multimillion shilling property in Nyeri town.

Mr Ephantus Matu Mbae, in papers filed at the Environment and Lands Court, says the commission has taken more than seven years in determining the status of a piece of land he purchased in 2002.

The land registered as Nyeri/Municipality Block 1/1088 measuring 0.140 hectares is situated along Nyeri-Kamakwa road next to Outspan Hospital. He says the commission, together with the Chief Land Registrar, started investigations on February 8, 2012.

The registrar, with instructions from EACC, placed a restriction order on the land, prohibiting any dealings or development “awaiting finalisation of certain undisclosed investigations”.

Mr Matu purchased the land from Ranjit Singh Sagoo and Kalwant Kaur Sagoo who had, in turn, bought the same from one Joseph Macharia Wairuhi and Catherine Nyawira Kahuria on August 2, 1996.
In 2002, the land was transferred to Mr Matu and on June 11, 2004, he was issued with a lease certificate.

But on February 8, 2012, when he attempted to develop the property, the Land Registrar placed a restriction prohibiting the development.

“I am unable to develop the suit property, consequently incurring heavy losses in terms of wasted resources and anticipated future earnings,” says Mr Matu through lawyer Ng’ang’a Munene.

Before moving to court, he had written several demand letters to the EACC complaining about the prolonged investigations.

He says the period taken to investigate the matter is inordinate, bearing in mind that he purchased the property through the appropriate channels and all fees, including stamp duties, raised and paid.

The Housing ministry had also stopped the development in August 2009. A letter from the Ministry indicated that the plot was hived off a government-owned property.

But Mr Matu says he legally obtained ownership of the plot and the caveat is unlawful and contrary to provisions of Section 76 and 77 of the Land Registration Act 2012.

“I am the registered proprietor of the leasehold property. The appropriate land rent, rates and stamp duties had been paid all through the transactions. Despite the law requiring notice be issued to the registered proprietor of a property before a restriction is placed, I was not issued or served with any,” he contends.

He wants the court to order the removal of the restriction and compensation for losses in anticipated earnings. The EACC filed a memorandum of appearance in the case through Mogi AM Advocates but it is yet to file its response.

In Murang’a, the DCI suffered a blow after a court directed it to remove a caveat placed against the development of an 11-acre piece of land, registered as L.R Nginda/Samar/ Block1/ 2871 and Nginda/Samar/ Block350.

Three individuals — Mukuria James, Lucy Wanjeri and George Kang’ata — had sued the DCI for failing to conclude investigations on suspected corrupt dealings in the purchase of the property.

Justice Grace Kemei found the agency had taken about three years to investigate the ownership and registration of the property.

“There is no evidence that the (land) titles were irregularly acquired or ownership had been successfully challenged on grounds of fraud. The registration of the restriction was made in 2016 and 2017 respectively and at the time of the hearing there was no evidence that the investigations were ongoing,” said Justice Kemei.

She ruled that investors should be allowed to enjoy their rights of proprietorship of the land in accordance with section 24 of the Land Registration Act, 2012.

In Kiambu, Justice Lucy Gacheru directed Juja DCIO and the Land Registrar Thika to remove restrictions they had placed against the development of three parcels of land in Ruiru.

The proprietors, Bessy Nkirote and Patricia Kamathi, moved to court after a caveat was placed on their properties registered as Ruiru East/Juja East Block 2/18391, Block 2/18392 and Block 2/18393.

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