Centum housing project in Kilifi

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (right), Centum Group Chief Executive officer James Mworia (centre) and Dr Bitange Ndemo during the official opening of the Sh1.3bn Awali Estate in Vipingo on October 11, 2020.

| Laban Walloga | Nation Media Group

Win for Centum as it gets 1,500 acres at Sh100bn Vipingo estate back

The Ministry of Lands has started restoring ownership of part of the Sh100 billion Vipingo Industrial Park land to a subsidiary firm of Centum Investment Company after it emerged that there was double registration of title deed.

The Director of Land Administration has directed the Mombasa Lands Registrar to record Centum’s subsidiary firm, Vipingo Development Ltd, as the rightful owner of the land.

In a letter dated March 3, 2021, signed by Aseri Kirungu for the director, Land Administration, the registrar was directed to expunge the lease titles that had been registered in favour of a group of Kilifi residents led by Mr Wycliffe Tembo.

The letter was copied to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), as well as Vipingo Development Ltd.

The director indicated that the registration of Mr Tembo and others as owners of the land measuring 1,583 acres was erroneous as a result of misinterpretation of facts.

“After complaints by Vipingo Development Ltd and after cross-checking our records, it has come to our knowledge that another certificate already exists and duly registered at the Mombasa Lands Registry in favour of Vipingo Development Ltd,” reads the letter.

According to the director, this means that the lease that was in favour of Mr Tembo and the others ought not to have been prepared in the first place.

As a result of the letter, the Mombasa Senior Registrar of Titles wrote to Mr Tembo, directing him to surrender the title on grounds that it was “erroneously and fraudulently processed due to misrepresentation of facts”.

“You are hereby summoned to surrender the Certificate of Title together with the registered lease that was issued in your name on July 27, 2020 for cancellation within the next 14 days,” reads the letter signed by Mr S K Mwangi, senior registrar of titles, Mombasa.

The development comes days after Vipingo Development Ltd filed its defence in court to a case in which Mr Tembo and the Bambani Community Based Organisation are laying claim to the land.

Vipingo, through its managing director Kenneth Mbae, said the case is devoid of merit and “forms part of a well-orchestrated fraudulent enterprise being executed by the petitioner and other co-conspirators with the aim of illegally acquiring the land.”

The disputed land, along the Mombasa-Malindi highway, is part of the 10,254 acres that Centum Investment Company, acting through Vipingo Development Ltd, bought from another NSE-listed company, Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd, in March 2015. The land comprised 18 separate titles.

In his response to the case, Mr Mbae said the petitioners were seeking to superimpose a new title over an existing one.

“Vipingo Development Plc acquisition of all its land in Kilifi in 2015 was by way of lawful agreements for sale entered into with the then-registered owner of the land, Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd. As a consequence of these purchase transactions (for valid consideration), duly sanctioned by all the required authorities, the company secured the titles to its land," said Mr Mbae in the court papers.

He added that the company has already initiated various developments on the land, including construction of affordable housing, supporting local educational infrastructure development and construction of a large scale water desalination plant to supply potable water to local residents and investors.

It has also carried out diverse infrastructure developments to add value to the various sites on the land as an investment destination.

Prominent developments include 440 apartments and 74 maisonettes in a residential estate, large scale leisure and shopping centre, large scale agricultural activity, specifically sisal growing and roads.