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Lands boss now says Langata school land developer has valid title

The Muhammad Swazuri-led on Monday changed its position on the contested ownership of Langata Road Primary School playground, saying the private developer who was ejected from the site in February has a valid title deed for the property.

The NLC made the revelation in court papers it has filed in reply to a suit filed by Airport View Housing — the private developer that is claiming ownership of the property.

The NLC told the court that it was yet to begin the planned review of titles, leaving the deed held by Airport View valid.

The public land agency told the court that the private developer had jumped the gun in filing the suit and asked the court to strike it out.

TITLE NOT CANCELLED

“The title has not been cancelled, and review of grants is yet to happen. When that time comes and Airport View still feels aggrieved, it will have grounds to pursue remedies against the NLC. There is no threat of deregistration or revocation of Airport View’s ownership of the land,” the commission’s lawyers said.

Airport View moved to court after it was forcefully evicted from the disputed plot on grounds that the NLC and suspended Land minister Charity Ngilu had declared Langata Road Primary School as the true owner of the property.

National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri(left), Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu(centre) and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero addressing journalists at Langata Road Primary School. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL
National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri(left), Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu(centre) and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero addressing journalists at Langata Road Primary School. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

Airport View insists that the eviction was done without due process, and is seeking to stop revocation of its tittle.

Meanwhile, Airport View is seeking to stop the Swazuri team from reviewing the grants until the court has determined its suit. The developer argues that the NLC’s hearings could render its case void in the event the Swazuri team rules against it.

The developer has also faulted Mrs Ngilu and the NLC for referring to it as a land grabber, saying the duo had condemned it before a free and fair hearing.

Dr Swazuri and Ms Ngilu held press conferences between January and February in which they disowned Airport View’s title, casting doubt on the authenticity of the document.

SHOWN BIAS

Airport View on Monday said the NLC and Ms Ngilu had shown their bias by fencing the school and erecting a signboard that declares the school as the rightful owner of the disputed plot.

The developer says the title deed is all it has to show of its ownership of the property and must protect it from a “biased” NLC tribunal.

Airport View claims it paid Sh2.7 million to the government between 1989 and 1994 for the 10.9 acres, which the disputed 1.4 acres is part of.

The suspended Lands minister in February named four businessmen — Harbans Singh Amrit, Mandip Singh Amrit, Kamal Prakash Amrit and Manjit Singh Amrit — as the firm’s owners, and said they had grabbed the 1.4-acre piece of land.

“The NLC and Lands minister have deprived our client use of his property and made declarations in the public yet they have not filed a response to issues we have raised. The title is still valid because they did not follow due process and that’s what we’re here to protect,” the developer’s lawyers said.

Airport View accuses the NLC of ignoring a number of issues it raised at a hearing on February 13, forcing it to file the second suit.

But the NLC insists Airport View is being speculative and is trying to use the court to avoid a planned review of its title deed. The commission says Airport View should allow it to conclude the planned review before approaching the court for a remedy.

Lang’ata Road Primary School pupils pull down a gate as they protested against the grabbing of their playground. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL
Lang’ata Road Primary School pupils pull down a gate as they protested against the grabbing of their playground. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

CHILDREN DEMONSTRATION

Five children were injured in January during demonstrations to save the school land from alleged grabbers, sparking public outrage against the police.

The children were injured after the police lobbed teargas canisters at the demonstrators, who including civil society activists.

Airport View has also challenged the NLC’s authority in reviewing its title deed. The developer argues that the commission can only review ownership of public land, and that its title clearly shows that the land is privately owned.

“The Constitution gives the commission the power to review titles for public land but not private land. There are authorities that have held that only the court can declare the acquisition of private land illegal,” the developer argues.

The NLC has responded to the claim by stating that the law allows it to review all grants, and that the process should not be stopped on mere grounds of Airport View’s suspected bias.

The NLC insists that the review would be in public interest as several dirty land deals were done under the old laws during which public officials irregularly transferred public land to private individuals.

“It is a matter of public knowledge that under the former Constitution, the President and the Commissioner of Land abused their discretion to allocate public land. Stopping the NLC’s review would return us to the old era,” the commission said.

Justice Louis Onguto is expected to rule on whether to stop the review and the NLC hearings on May 22.

YET ANOTHER DEVELOPER

Meanwhile, a second developer has intensified the ownership battle by claiming it had struck a deal with Airport View to buy the land for Sh150 million.

Vinemag last month sued Airport View seeking to secure its planned purchase of the controversial property, on which it plans to build a multi-storey mall.

Justice Onguto on Monday consolidated the two cases, promising determine all of them together as they involve the same property.

Vinemag has attached a sale agreement it signed with Airport View as proof of its claim to the land. The firm insists that it carried out its due diligence, which revealed Airport View as the genuine owner.

Airport View has, however, denied entering into any contract with Vinemag.