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Taj Mall was built on oil pipeline, KPC

Airgate Centre, popularly known as Taj Mall — which was demolished on Saturday — sat on oil pipeline, the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) has said.

In a statement, KPC managing director Joel Sang said the building — owned by Nairobi real estate mogul Rameshchandra Govino Gorasia — was a threat not only to tenants but also to residents living in adjacent areas.

The mall, he said, was also a threat “to the supply of fuel in the country and the East African region.”

He said the affected lines are the old Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline (Line 1) and the recently completed Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline (Line 5).

SAFETY OF PIPELINE

The company supported the demolition, saying it is a move to safeguard the safety and integrity of the oil pipeline.

Mr Sang urged people who have put up illegal structures on KPC reserves to demolish them.

“KPC has already embarked on an exercise to remove all the illegal structures and buildings across the pipeline network,” the statement sent on Saturday evening reads in part.

“We hereby urge all the persons who have erected illegal structures or settled illegally on our right of way to move out with immediate effect in the interest of safety and security of fuel supply for the country and the region.”

On Saturday, Mr Gorasia, who had dared the government to demolish his property, called on the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate the Nairobi City Council (now Nairobi City County) officials who approved construction of the mall.

“It is very wrong to demolish this building claiming it is on a road reserve. The good thing is that with land, they are all documented, starting from the title deed, change of user, and all the other approvals, and these documents are all in place,” Mr Gorasia told journalists.

‘TRAFFIC FLOW CHALLENGES’

Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) director-general Silas Kinoti said the demolition was necessary, citing “serious traffic flow challenges” at the junction.

“In due course, motorists should now expect functional slip roads, service roads, and other necessary facilities to improve movement of traffic,” he said.

The multi-sectoral committee on unsafe buildings had given Mr Gorasia 14 days to bring down the six-storey building, saying the mall was constructed on a road reserve.

Mr Gorasia told the media that he would not demolish the building as it had been approved by all relevant authorities.

“Do they think I am a stupid person to put up a building like this and then go and demolish it myself? Unless I have gone mad,” Mr Gorasia said during a press conference outside the building two weeks ago.

Mr Gorasia said the title for the land had been approved and a title issued, the construction of the building approved and all due processes followed in the construction of the building.

ROAD RESERVE

The government’s multi-sectoral committee chaired by Mr Moses Nyakiongora, in a notice dated August 16, 2018, gave the developer up to August 30 to demolish the building, saying it had encroached on the road reserve, hindering its expansion.

Different government agencies have in the past tried to have the building removed in vain.

Kura wrote a letter to the proprietors of the building on April 10, 2012, noting it sat on public land.

The next year, the National Land Commission revoked the property’s title deed but the building survived demolition following the re-designing of the Outering Road expansion project.

Mr Gorasia says he bought the land in 1996 and 1994 from one Samuel Kathenge and Abuja, whom, he says, he owes Sh500 million, which he has not been able to pay because tenants vacated the premises when it was announced the building would be demolished.