The move to transfer the land on which Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology (Kist) stands has been defended as a bid to protect it from grabbers.
This came after Kiambu politician Nginyo Kariuki threatened to go to court over the matter.
Mr Kariuki, who still has a founder member certificate signed by former Attorney-General Charles Njonjo, said he will sue the Kist Registered Board of Trustees and the National Land Commission (NLC) if they fail to hand back the title to the college in seven days.
The controversy emerged in the public last week after the Nation exclusively published details of how the land, previously owned by the college, had been taken over by an entity known as The Registered Trustees of Kiambu Institute, thus depriving the institution of all its land.
READ: Kiambu Institute loses property to barons
The trustees, led by businessman Allan Ngugi and former lands commissioner James Raymond Njenga, however hit back on Sunday, describing the claim as “malicious and highly defamatory” and insisting that “at no time in its history was the land ever owned by the college”.
They said in their note: “It is unfortunate that senior citizens of this country, some of whom have served Kist in different capacities for over 40 years, should be ridiculed and falsely accused as ‘barons’ who have ‘grabbed’ public land, which they are appointed to protect.
“Their grandchildren, who are the students at the institute, have been incited to demonstrate against them and to believe that the trustees are, indeed, thieves.”
However, Mr Kariuki said he was the one who was tasked by President Jomo Kenyatta with looking for the land to build the college in the late 1960s.
“When the County Council of Kiambu was asked to donate land for the building of a college, they said that the only land available was at the golf course.
“I was then chairman of Ndumberi Golf Club and it is Kenyatta who said that the golf club land should be spared,” Mr Kariuki recalled.
The politician said he was tasked with speaking to the White settlers in Kiambu who owned huge tracts of land and members of the golf club agreed to donate 30 acres for the college.
“I told Mr Njenga Karume that we have 30 acres of land but, before we could do anything with it, we realised that there was another farm where the previous owner had left,” Mr Kariuki recalled.
“This was 200 acres, and that is how Kiambu Institute ended up where it is. It was an abandoned farm.
“I had asked Mr Karume whether we should return the 30 acres, now that we had another parcel of land for the college, but he said, ‘Mugunda nducokagio’ (you don’t return donated land) and we decided to build what is now Kiambu High School on that parcel as we started plans of building a college.”
The trustees however said the main reason for their action was to “unlock full asset value and facilitate proper utilisation of the land asset in the short-, medium- and long term and give Kist its own title and thereby freedom to leverage partnerships, collaborations and facilitate technical training expansion based on an approved master plan”.
But that move has been termed illegal since the transfer took place after the law vested all assets into Board of Governors.
Until his death, Mr Karume was the chairman of Kiambu High School Board of Governors and a trustee of the college.
Mr Kariuki said that, contrary to their claim, the trustees did not buy the land.
“None of the present trustees know the history of that college more than I do,” Mr Kariuki said, adding that a Board of Trustees was registered on December 28, 1971 with the purpose of developing a technical institute and, seven years later, they transferred the 200 acres to the college.
“We elected the original trustees to hold that land for the institute and on behalf of the Kiambu people,” Mr Kariuki said.
“That is why there was a caveat to the land so that nobody can tamper with it.”
Mr Kariuki said he will in court demand audited accounts of the college.