The Ministry of Education and the National Lands Commission are on the spot over the controversial payment of Sh1.5 billion to a company for prime land occupied by two city public schools.
The payment is part of Sh3 billion budgeted for the purchase of a 13.7-acre property occupied by Ruaraka High School and Drive Inn Primary School.
The land is at the centre of an ownership dispute between the schools and Whispering Palms Estate Limited, the company that was paid part of the Sh3.3 billion as compensation in suspicious circumstances.
The company has been involved in numerous controversial multi-billion transactions involving taxpayer funds.
According to a NLC valuation report carried out on the instruction of the Ministry of Education, Drive Inn Primary School measures 6.9818 acres, while Ruaraka High School measures 6.7883 acres.
Both the schools and the firm claim ownership of the land neighbouring the General Service Unit headquarters, currency printer De La Rue Company and the Kenya School of Monetary Studies.
The NLC through its valuer, Salome Munubi, said the land is situated on an accessible high-potential area well served with public infrastructure and social amenities. It attached a value of Sh3 billion.
“The fair value to attach to this property for compulsory purchase in accordance with above land market analysis is approximately Sh206 million per acre. Therefore, total compensation for 13.7701 acres will be Sh3,269,040,600, inclusive of statutory 15 percent disturbance allowance,” Munubi noted.
The Education ministry through Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang wrote to NLC on January 15 this year directing them to pay the firm Sh1.5 billion.
“Whereas you had requested us to deposit Sh3,269,040,600 in the Commission Account, the National Treasury granted us the authority to spend Sh1.5 billion in this Financial Year 2017-2018.
The balance of the funding will be reviewed in the context of Financial Year 2018-2018,” Kipsang said.
But the management of the two schools told the National Assembly Lands Committee when it visited the site on Tuesday that they rightfully own the land and nobody should lay claim to it.
The committee chaired by Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai was told that the government set aside the land as a public utility in 1966.
John Njogu, who served as board of management chairman of Ruaraka High School for 18 years, said the land was acquired in 1981 through the initiative of Nairobi Mayor Andrew Ngumba.
“For all those years, I’ve never seen anybody or institution claim ownership of this land until recently when this saga emerged. This land belongs to the school,” he told the committee.
The current board of management chairperson Nafula Kuria said the school acquired an allotment letter in 1999 after paying Sh3,066 to the Lands commissioner. It is still awaiting the title deed.
However, in a strange twist, Afrison Export and Import Limited and Huelands Limited, a sister company to Whispering Palms Estate Limited, on August 17, 2016, wrote to NLC claiming ownership of the land.
Director Francis Mburu claimed they were the registered owners of the land, LR No. 7879/4, having acquired it in 1981.
Mburu said the title of the land was dated back to the colonial days, with a freehold lease of 900 years.
“Over time, persons unknown to me invaded the above property and have settled on it. Be that as it may, schools, government administrative offices, roads and other support services have been constructed on the land to support the population in the area without my consent,” he said.
“The matter has been going on for 30 years. The purpose of this letter is to request you to compensate our companies for the taken land and illegal occupation for public utilities.”
When he was summoned by the Parliamentary committee on March 29, NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri affirmed that the payment of Sh1.5 billion was done on January 29 after directors of Afrison Export and Import Limited wrote and gave authority to the Commission, via a letter dated January 26, to pay its sister company Whispering Palms Estate Limited.
“The commission was satisfied, after undertaking due diligence, that the payment met conditions necessary for compensation to the said company. The Commission wishes to state that the payment was done in conformity with the laid down process and procedures of compulsory land acquisition,” Swazuri said.
The money was channelled through the company’s National Bank of Kenya account and was withdrawn within hours of being transferred, raising eyebrows. The firm's directors are Francis Mburu, Mark Mungai Mburu and Justin Mungai Mburu.
Ruaraka High School Principal Agnes Chege and her Primary counterpart Benjamin Oloo were summoned by the EACC on February 13 to shed light on the land tussle.
PS Kipsang had written to NLC on February 7 last year saying, “In the interest of securing public investments in the two schools, it is necessary to have the land on which the two schools are developed, acquired through the principle of eminent domain i.e acquisition in the public interest.”
Last month, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission barred the government from paying Whispers Palms Estate Limited until investigations are completed.
“We note that payment of Sh1.5 billion to Whispering Palms Estate Limited on January 30 on behalf of Afrison Export-Import Limited and Huelands Limited was part of the payment. As we continue with investigations, we wish to advise your commission not to make further payments until the investigations are completed,” read the letter.
Afrison Export and Import Limited and Huelands Limited claim to own 96 acres in Ruaraka, part of which has been the subject of a tussle with the GSU, and now two schools that insist they own part of the same prime property.
The two firms in 2012 successfully sued the government for Sh4.2 billion, arguing that the GSU had forcefully acquired 37.4 acres of the land they say they bought in 1981.
Former Attorney General Githu Muigai however negotiated the award with Afrison and Huelands down to Sh2.4 billion. The amount was released in three instalments between 2012 and 2017.
However, after receiving a Sh400 million instalment in 2015, Afrison and Huelands disagreed with a law firm — Mahmoud & Gitau Advocates. The two firms accused their lawyers of trying to pay part of the Sh400 million instalment to unknown individuals.
Afrison and Huelands then revealed in court that former President Mwai Kibaki's son, Jimmy, was to receive Sh100 million for unspecified services he rendered to them.
In 2016, Afrison was back in court, claiming Sh141 billion for a 58.6 acre piece of land adjacent to the GSU headquarters. The land includes the 13.8 acres occupied by Drive Inn Primary School and Ruaraka High School.
Afrison and Huelands have in the suit demanded Sh32.7 billion for the land, Sh24 billion for rent they would have earned, Sh79.8 billion interest on land rent and Sh4.7 billion in penalties.
A review of the land by Camp Valuers filed in court described the 58.6-acre land as “ripe for development of multi-storey buildings for both commercial and residential use”.
In yet another suit filed by D Njogu & Company Advocates against Afrison and Huelands' in 2015 — but withdrawn last year after the parties reached an out-of-court deal — the sale of the school's land came up. The consent filed in court says that Sh80 million, which was to be paid to D Njogu, would be remitted from proceeds of the sale of the land hosting Drive Inn Primary and Ruaraka High School.
Swazuri today will appear before the committee to shed more light on the disputed land.