Centum subsidiary declared owner of Vipingo land
A subsidiary firm of the NSE-listed Centum Investment Company has won a legal dispute involving ownership of part of the Sh100 billion Vipingo Industrial Park land in Kilifi.
The firm, Vipingo Development Limited, got a reprieve after the High Court in Malindi declared it as the legal owner of the 3,911-acre land, which Mr Wycliffe Tembo Mwangome and Bambani Community Based Organisation were laying claim of ownership.
Throwing out the petition filed by Mr Mwangome and the organisation, Justice Millicent Odeny said the title issued to Vipingo Development Limited (VDL) meets the procedural compliance for acquisition of titles.
The dispute stemmed from alleged double-registration of the title at the Mombasa Lands Registry.
Justice Odeny stated that the petitioners’ title, acquired in July 2020, was irregular and had been issued to them by mistake.
This is because the petitioners’ title was superimposed over a pre-existing title issued to Vipingo Development Limited in March 2020.
“Courts cannot be used to sanitise irregularities in the land sector which has gone rogue. The petitioners are therefore not entitled to the orders sought in the petition,” said the judge as she directed the Land Registrar to cancel the petitioners’ certificate of title and rectify the register to expunge such title.
The petitioners’ claim was founded on the allegation that the suit property had been surrendered to the government on September 20, 2001 by Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd.
They claimed that the suit property was as a result of amalgamation of two land parcels and that it was allocated to them on May 9, 2002.
The Petitioners stated that they were supposed to pay a stand premium within 30 days but they did not have the money therefore they sought extension of the period within which to pay and paid after 18 years as they had to raise funds.
They stated that on June 24, 2020 they were issued with a lease document and subsequently on July 27, 2020 with a certificate of title.
But the court noted that the petitioners did not produce any letter from the Ministry of Lands showing that they had sought and were granted an extension of time within which to pay the stand premium after 18 years.
“They did not also produce the letter of acceptance, and there was no evidence that such a letter exists in the land registry in respect of the parcels in question,” said Justice Odeny.
She also noted that the Land Registrar had stated that the lease document held by the petitioners was issued erroneously due to misrepresentation on the surrender and amalgamation of the two parcels of land.
Justice Odeny also found that from the evidence the two parcels of land were not amalgamated. She stated that suit property was not part of the parcels that were surrendered via the deed of surrender dated September 20, 2001.
The court held that the issue of amalgamation was captured in the evidence of a surveyor identified as Mr Zimmerlin, who testified that he had been instructed to carry out amalgamation by Rea Vipingo.
But the same did not proceed as he later received instructions to cancel the amalgamation which he did through a letter dated September 21, 2018 to the Director of Surveys.
The court heard that amalgamation does not result to change of ownership of the land.
Stating that a title cannot be superimposed on another active one, the judge said that the consent to subdivide issued to the petitioners by the Land Control Board were cancelled upon complaint to the Chief Land Registrar, Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Kilifi County government.
Vipingo Development Ltd
“Having found that the suit parcels of land were not part of the parcels that were surrendered vide the deed of surrender dated September 20, 2001 and further that the parcels were not amalgamated, that there existed active titles on the suit land in favour of Vipingo Development Ltd, it follows that the suit parcels were private land and were not available for allocation to the Petitioners. Private land cannot be allocated through a letter of allotment,” said Justice Odeny.
On the petitioners’ claim of historical injustices against the Mijikenda communities, the court held that the petition was not about historical injustices but about whether the petitioners’ title was issued regularly.
“The petitioners did not prove that their forefathers resided on the suit parcels of land and which parcels of land in particular,” said the judge.
VDL stated that it has initiated various developments on the purchased land including construction of affordable housing, supporting local educational infrastructure development, construction of a large-scale water desalination plant to supply water to local residents and investors.
The disputed land is situated along the Mombasa-Malindi highway.