Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Sunday moved to repossess prime land located within the Eldoret central business district, which was grabbed by a firm that was untouchable during the Daniel arap Moi presidency.
On this plot stand the Eldoret Fire Station, the Administration Police camp, the High Court, Children’s, Environment and Land courts, the Court of Appeal and a public hospital.
The five parcels of land, valued at over Sh1 billion were grabbed by Lima Limited, one of the biggest dealers in farm equipment in Kenya and which has been in the past found guilty of grabbing public land.
In the 1990s, Lima Ltd tried to seize part of Karura Forest, triggering a bitter war with environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai. The firm had been given 16 acres of the forest and was selling them at Sh60 million each.
The company, which is co-owned by Mr Moi and former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott, who died in July 2017, was one of the multi-billion investments the two leaders co-owned.
They formed the company in 1975 to take advantage of the indigenisation policy that was established in the 1970s, and whose objective was to loosen European and Asian businessmen’s grip on economic power.
The titles of the grabbed land were later used to secure a loan by Trans-National Bank Limited, another business co-owned by Moi and Biwott.
“After a court battle lasting 13 years, we’ve managed to secure the land from the grabbers. Our officers are currently doing an evaluation at the property as they move to repossess the land,” EACC director of investigations Abdi Mohamud told the Nation.
The defunct Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case in August 2006 seeking to find out whether the land was set aside for public utility. It also sought to find out whether they were validly alienated.
Five parcels of land were allocated to Lima Ltd between 1995 and 1998 by a former lands commissioner, Mr Wilson Gacanja, who according to the court, “without any legal authority, purported to allocate and issue long-term leases in respect to the land.”
According to the ruling, which was delivered last week, “the commissioner of lands had no authority to alienate the land, as under section 3 of the Government Lands Act the power to alienate unalienated government land lay with the president.”
In a mark of runaway impunity, court documents indicate that the private company received a letter of allotment on November 11, 1996 for the parcels of land despite the plots housing government property.
Interestingly, the board of survey for the property, which authorised the transfer to Lima Limited was chaired by the then district commissioner, and went on to transfer the land and yet it’s where the DC’s office stood.
The Nation has established that the board of survey of the property ruled that the government properties on the parcel of land be destroyed or discarded as they were old. But to date, some of the buildings are still in use.
“The allocation of the suit properties to private entities did not make sense since the buildings could have been repaired,” court documents indicate.
In his judgement, Justice Anthony Ombwayo cancelled the charging of the property for a loan by Trans-National Bank Limited, dealing a further blow to the bank associated with Mr Moi and the late Biwott.
“The second defendant (Mr Gacanja) who never came to court to give evidence, despite being served, is liable to pay costs of the suit as he knew or ought to have known that the property was not available for allocation,” the court further ruled.
Since he left power in 2002, several parcels of land meant for public utilities, which were grabbed by companies associated with Mr Moi and the untouchables of the Nyayo era have been reclaimed.
In October 2010, the courts also revoked seven pieces of land owned by Lima Limited located in Eldoret town.