On board a British Airways plane that left the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Friday at 11 pm was an 86-year-old man being taken to “calmer” grounds by his son.
Mr Harcharan Singh was destined for Heathrow Airport alongside his son Harvinder Sehmi. The medication for the elderly man’s heart condition was kept close, with all efforts being made to ensure he did not skip any of his prescriptions throughout the trip.
In Britain where he will live with his son, Mr Singh is expected to take some time off from a long-drawn battle over a parcel of land in Nairobi that is a statistic of the conflicts that have emerged regarding plots in the city whose leases have expired.
It is an eighth-acre plot near the Ngara Road roundabout where today, a recently finished seven-storey building stands. On the building’s ground floor is the Ndiira Café.
Court pleadings filed by Mr Singh and his two brothers Harbhajan Singh and Jaswaran Singh indicate that the imposing building should not have been built in the first place.
The Singh brothers allege that the developers, a company called Tarabana, bought it from another company, Rospatech Limited, which had grabbed the land by doctoring documents by circumventing lease renewal procedures.
One Lawrence Mpuru Aburi is one of the people who have been fingered in the case.
According to a sale agreement filed before court, he is a director of Rospatech, the company that is alleged to have grabbed the land’s title in 2010 then sold the plot for Sh24 million in March 2014 to the firm that erected the house there. The brothers’ lawyer Kimandu Gichohi says the land should cost at least Sh120 million.
RESPOND TO ACCUSATIONS
Mr Aburi is yet to respond to the accusations that he and his co-director of Rospatech, Mr Martin Njuguna, hijacked a lease renewal process and grabbed the land despite having no records of land rates repayments from previous years.
The drama of eviction, it is stated in the documents, has taken a toll on the health of the ageing Singh brothers — who say they are the initial owners of the property they were evicted from in 2014 “with the supervision of the Pangani OCPD”.
The brothers say they bought the land in 1968 when it had a 59-year lease that was to expire in 2001.
“Despite the extension of the lease in our favour, Rospatech and Tarabana illegally and with brutal force evicted us from the suit land on October 2, 2014 and unlawfully demolished our building,” Harcharan states in an affidavit to the Environment and Land Court.
“We have pursued this matter with the police but they seem to be unconcerned and the only remedy we can get is to file this suit for necessary orders,” Harcharan, who is pursuing the case on behalf of his brothers, stated when he first filed the case in 2014.
The Singh brothers had initially sued the companies that were involved in the sale of the land.
SERVED WITH PAPERS
But early this month, they amended their suit to include the chief land registrar in Nairobi, the National Land Commission, the inspector-general of police and the attorney-general. The new parties were served with the papers on Thursday.
They accuse the Nairobi chief land registrar of colluding with the companies that transferred the property, saying that he made alterations “whereas the original and genuine title remained with the plaintiffs and they did not bother to call or ask for it.”
They question why the land’s title can have two registry numbers — 122963 which they say was issued fraudulently, and 6477, which they say is the original one.
Moreover, they wonder why the amount in the sale agreement was listed as Sh24 million while that in the official transfer was Sh12.5 million.
The NLC is not adversely mentioned in the case. Rather, documents from the commission placed in the court file indicate that it has been questioning the transactions.
“NLC has investigated this complaint and found that Mr Harcharan Singh Sehmi is a victim of a wide conspiracy involving county government staff, Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning staff and the police department that led to forceful takeover of this property using manipulated documents,” states the commission’s deputy director of investigations and forensics services Antipas Nyanjwa in a letter dated November 10, 2016.
The land commission’s bid to have all parties discuss the matter was challenged in court by the two accused companies and is set for a ruling on March 14.
Pictures filed in court show the two-storey commercial property that stood in the property before 2014 and the one that stands there at the moment.
The building was forcefully pulled down to pave the way for the new one.
“They have been in that land ever since, using and utilising the same for gain while the plaintiffs continue suffering losses,” their lawyer Kimandu Gichohi says in court documents.
The Singh brothers plead with the court to order the eviction of the company that has built in the land, a declaration that they are the rightful owners and to be awarded special damages at Sh1 million per month since the date they were evicted.
But in a response to their earlier pleadings, Tabarana Company says there was no one staying at the property when they moved in.
“In the course of conducting due diligence, which involved a visit to the property, Tabarana did not find any person living thereon, or dwelling houses constructed thereon as Rospatech Limited, the vendor, granted vacant possession to Tabarana upon completion of the sale,” the firm stated through Khayega Chiwai and Company Advocates.
“Rospatech Limited sold the property to Tabarana in a transparent manner at a time when the plaintiffs’ legal entitlement to the property had long expired. The plaintiffs therefore do not have a cause of action against Tabarana that is maintainable in law,” they added.
In an affidavit, Tabarana’s director Charles Kiri Thube said he and his co-director Cathryn Wanjiku, also his wife, learnt that the property was on sale in 2014 and bid for it.
With these strong positions, heated arguments are expected at the Lands court in Nairobi on June 26, the next hearing date.