Revealed: 295 acres for public utilities grabbed in Kasarani
Nearly 300 acres of public utility land that Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja was hoping to use to develop Nairobi have been grabbed.
Now, unless he launches a repossession war with the powerful grabbers, many of whom are in government and private business, he might have to let the matter slide.
In an April 13, 2023 letter to the Embakasi Ranching Company Ltd, Mr Sakaja, through his county secretary and head of Public Service, requested the 295 acres in Kasarani constituency to utilise for its intended purposes.
“Charged with the responsibility of providing a variety of services to residents, we request you to hand over all public utility properties as were set aside in the sub division of Nairobi/Block 105,” reads the letter in part.
Another part reads: “You are requested to avail (sic) yourself with the information to the office of the chief officer — Urban Development and Planning by April 19, 2023 at 2pm.”
The ranching company, through its chairman James Njoroge, in a letter dated April 18, 2023, responded: “We are in total agreement as board of directors that we are host to 295 acres in that block 105 and we are also in total agreement that the land belongs to the public.”
However, Mr Njoroge went on: “The biggest dilemma we have in meeting the demands of your request is that all those acres are in private ownership after they were grabbed.”
The chairman added that in 2015, the Nairobi City County Government received a detailed report of the acres grabbed and the names of the people who irregularly acquired the land. The report from Embakasi Ranching also identified the fraudulent title deed numbers used.
Mr Njoroge added that the report was compiled after the governor’s office made a similar demand “and we made copies to the President, Attorney-General, Commissioner of Lands, Transparency International, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Directorate of Criminal Investigations ...”
Part of the grabbed land is a parcel of 85 acres that had been reserved for the construction of the Muhuri Muchiri stadium. Mr Njoroge told the governor that out of the 85 acres, “the only available space now is just enough to erect a kiosk”.
“All the other acres are also grabbed and the names of the grabbers are available. We can only resubmit the list of the grabbers since we do not have the land now under our control,” said the letter.
Mr Njoroge signed off by saying: “We are now relying on the President William Ruto administration to help us get things right in this ranching that has experienced a greedy scramble where even shareholders have lost their own land to the cartels.”
Embakasi Ranching has 16,000 acres in Kasarani alone. It was registered in 1972, having been founded by, among others, the nation’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and the late Kiambu politician Njenga Karume as a dairy and horticulture enterprise.
It later transformed into a land-buying and selling company, which later got mired in wrangles, with the resultant devastating land grabbing.
The ranch's original shareholders were from Kiambu and Murang'a counties, but the secondary shareholding list has members from across the country.
Last year, then-Lands Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney publicly admitted that the ranch was in a mess and President Uhuru Kenyatta's 2018 directive that it be dissolved and members issued with title deeds was proving to be a tall order.
She further admitted that the grabbing at the ranch was an intrigue and she was relying on digitisation of land records to try and streamline the titling.
By the time she left office after the August 2022 elections, she had presided over processing of 25,000 title deeds out of the 35,000 that she hoped to issue.
Mr Njoroge said the board of directors had opened offices in Kiambu and Murang'a counties to take services closer to elderly shareholders who could no longer travel to Ruai, where the ranch has the main office.
“The oldest shareholders were born in 1932 … now being 91 years old — a very distressing age to be waiting for title deeds,” said Mr Njoroge.
A 2021 Cytonn Investment Company report showed how the value of land in the area had appreciated since 2011; an acre was retailing at Sh71 million from Sh33 million — a 115 per cent increase.
Bishop Edward Nyutu, who is a shareholder and the Central region chairman of Indigenous Faiths pleaded with the government to come to the rescue of the shareholders.
“We have witnessed depression, murders, loss of land and court cases ... We should now have a final solution to this madness,” he said.
He urged Governor Sakaja to use his powers to repossess the grabbed public utility plots “and in the process push for dissolution and titling of shareholders”.
Mr Nyutu says: “Murdering or corruptly inconveniencing others over greed for land remains cursed and even if the law might refuse to come after you, God’s justice will.”