Five Kiambu tycoons are to hand back 200 acres of land, worth more than Sh20 billion, which they transferred from a local institute and subdivided to ostensibly build a university and a commercial centre.
The prime property on Kiambu Road belonging to Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) was taken over by an entity known as The Registered Trustees of Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology —which comprises, among others, former commissioner of land James Raymond Njenga, former chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Allan Ngugi and Nairobi lawyer George K. Waruhiu.
Others involved in the transfer were quantity surveyor Kimani Mathu, who is Liberia’s Honorary Consul to Nairobi, and former Nairobi town clerk Joseph Njuguna Thairu.
Attorney General Kihara Kariuki has now written a 10-page legal opinion on the matter and sent it to Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, in which he asks the government to vest the property in the name of KIST.
Mr Kariuki, in his legal opinion, says this is public land and “the trustees should transfer it for vesting in the institute” — thus bringing to a close an intriguing case that had divided politicians in Kiambu over ownership of the land, which was bought in 1970s through public funds.
When the story was broken at the height of the Jubilee campaign last year, governor aspirant Ferdinand Waititu had stormed the college and locked the Trust’s offices.
By transferring the land to a trust, the five millionaires had denied the institute space for further development and compromised efforts by the German government to overhaul the college. It was actually the German government which raised the issue with Mr Kinyua after it found that the land was owned by another entity and it had no title deed.
The college was established in 1970s with the blessings of then President Jomo Kenyatta, who laid the foundation stone. The 200-acre land was bought with financial contributions from Kiambu people and foreign donors, who financed construction of the institute’s buildings and staff houses.
The Ministry of Education, in a letter dated September 20, 2018, says KIST is a public institution registered by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVET).
When KIST was being mooted in the early 1970s, a corporate body known as The Registered Trustees of Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology was registered by then Minister for Lands Jackson Angaine. The group brought together senior Kiambu leaders to hold the land in trust for a short time, pending the building and registration of the institute.
The original trustees included then Attorney-General Charles Njonjo, State House Comptroller Eliud Mathu, Nairobi mayor Margaret Kenyatta, businessman James Njenga Karume and then East African Power and Lighting MD Julius Gecau.
Others were University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Josephat Karanja, lawyer Samuel Waruhiu, medical doctor Joseph Mungai and Archbishop Obadiah Kariuki — father of the AG.
They were to hold the land in trust for the institute pending registration of KIST as a company limited by guarantee. This transfer was carried out on July 3, 1978, and the institute was issued with title deed LR 81/32.
After Parliament passed the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act, whose date of commencement was June 2013, management and ownership of public assets such as institutions was vested in boards of governors.
Interestingly, the board members were also trustees. They passed a resolution to hand the land to another entity in 2016. And since the government was to appoint a new board, as per the TVET Act, the trustees tried to force the new board to accept 33 acres, while they controlled the rest.
The law prohibits the board from disposing any property of a public institute without the consent of the Cabinet secretary.
The Ministry of Land has confirmed that, at the moment, LR 81/32 is registered under the trust, but the National Land Commission has placed a restriction on its subdivision to facilitate investigation on its legal ownership.
Another issue raised is about a Sh158 million loan from Co-operative Bank which is secured by a fixed and floating debenture on all the assets of the institute.
The AG argues that the Registered Trustees have no say on KIST land as per the law, and that it is the institute which should appoint such trustees with approval of the board.
The property should now vest in the name of the institute as per TVET Act 2013 and be dealt with by the Board of Governors, advises the AG.
The AG’s opinion has been copied to Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, Treasury CS Henry Rotich, Land CS Faridah Karoney and Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma.