By Adedayo Mathew
A former police commissioner has been drawn into a bitter fight over the ownership and control of a prime land with an estimated value of nearly Ksh.13 billion.
Papers filed in the Environment and Land Court at Thika accuse Bernard Njinu Kiarie who was a powerful police chief from 1982 to 1988 under President Moi of fraudulently selling the 402-acre land in Ruiru, Kiambu County.
In the case filed by Mary Njoki Thuku who is laying a joint claim to the land at the centre of the dispute with Mr Njinu and four others through a company called New Pilion Estates Limited, the plaintiff accuses the former police boss of selling the parcel behind his co-directors’ back.
Mr. Njinu sold the land to the National Cooperative Housing Union Limited (NACHU) in what Mrs Thuku, through her lawyer Mr Kaingati Kamonjo, describes as ‘an epic fraud.’
In the matter that has been certified ‘urgent’, Ms Thuku further claims NACHU, which has been enjoined as a defendant in the suit, is illegally sub-dividing and selling below-market prices to unsuspecting clients the land it has since rebranded to Riverline Ridges.
She wants the court to order NACHU to stop advertising, marketing and selling the Riverline Ridges development on New Pillion land and to award the property in equal portions to its six shareholders.
‘The 4th Defendant (NACHU) is trying to evade the cause of justice by aggressively disposing off the property by selling a plot measuring 50 by 100 at Ksh1.195M which is a throw-away price considering the current market value of that area is nothing short of Ksh4.M,’ the suit states.
Also listed as co-defendant in the suit is Tropical Farm Management Limited a Switzerland-based agricultural company that used to manage New Pillion’s coffee harvest. Potentially, the case could affect many buyers lured into investing within the fastest growing suburban in Kenya according to the latest national census figures.
Besides the controversy around the real ownership, contested sale and the sub-divisions of the land, Ms Thuku also claims Mr Njinu has been economical with the truth and has failed to disclose the extent of New Pillion debts to the land buyers.
Documents she has filed in court indicate New Pillion owes the Cooperative Bank and Tropical Farm Management Limited Ksh14M and 13M respectively in unsettled debts. If the land was used as security for an unpaid loan, Co-operative Bank is likely to lay claim to owning the land.
According to Ms Thuku, Mr Njinu secretly sold New Pillion’s land to NACHU for Kshs2.81billion, an act she claims amounts to “disinheriting all other shareholders” and says attempts to resolve the matter out of court have been unsuccessful.
It is unclear whether NACHU knew of New Pillion’s shareholder dispute and debt when it purchased the land in an agreement signed on 30 March 2021 by NACHU Chairman Francis Kamande Kamau and board members Louisa Wairimu Wanyoike and Mary Wairimu Mathenge.
The sale agreement, a copy of which was submitted as part of Mrs Thuku’s case filings, does not acknowledge New Pillion’s debts to Co-operative Bank and Tropical Farm Management Company Limited
NACHU’s agreement is subject to New Pillion providing documentation on land ownership. According to the agreement, NACHU’s full purchase of the land is not expected until 31 July 2021, which would imply it is selling Riverline Ridges development before it has assumed full ownership of the property.