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Towers of impunity? How moneyed investors are terrorising old Nairobi landowners

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Aerial View of Eastleigh in Nairobi pictured on May 10, 2024.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

The bustling Eastleigh suburb is arguably among the fastest-growing in Nairobi with skyscrapers revealing tycoons in a race to the top of the capital’s hub of business.

However, long-time homeowners whose properties are being eclipsed by this frenzied skyward push have become casualties of these soaring towers, especially those brazenly violating building plans. 

In some cases, old houses have been rendered inhabitable by structural defects caused by heavy excavations in nearby sites and in others, debris falling from roaring construction sites has caused deaths.

In other extreme cases, families that have owned plots in Eastleigh for many years suddenly find themselves locked in ownership disputes with deep-pocketed developers keen to demolish old structures on the prime land to erect high-rise buildings.

Along Muratina Road in Eastleigh, one landlord, Mr Daniel Waihenya, a director of Coldstone Investment Limited that owns an apartment there, is deeply troubled.


New high-rise buildings along General Waruingi Street in Eastleigh on October 25, 2023. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu Nation Media Group

His woes began in June 2022 when a massive development started on a plot adjacent to his five-storey residential flat.

Construction of the 20-storey Khaleej Towers has been a nightmare for him because of the damage to his property. He suspects the constant hounding is to arm-twist him into selling his plot.

Khaleej Towers Ltd — which is owned by Mohamed Noor Hassan, Omar Hussein Hassan and Abdi Barre — is constructing the high-rise building on plot number LR36/VII/234. 

Initially, Nairobi county had approved construction to 14 floors but the skyscraper is now on 20th floor.

That the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) had issued an Environmental Impact Assessment licence approval for 15 floors exposes the disjointed operations by government entities.

But it’s the failure by Khaleej Towers to reserve a recess of 2.4-metre from the boundary of the adjacent plot that has occasioned actions that have interfered with the neighbour’s development on plot number LR 36/VII/235.

Khaleej Towers has occupied the entire plot, beacon-to-beacon, which is against building regulations.

The Nairobi City County Development Control Policy, 2022, states that any structure should have a ground coverage of 80 per cent of the plot it is being constructed on.

This is to allow property lighting for the building and space for installation of vital amenities such as sewer lines.

Therefore, for the plot that covers an area of 1395.7 square metres, the building should have occupied a maximum area of 1116.6 square metres.

Instead, Khaleej Towers is built on 1,390.8 square metres, a Nairobi County Urban Planning report on the developer’s building plan shows.

With little wriggle room, the developer brought down the perimeter wall erected around the adjacent property in order to tap into the main sewer line on the neighbour’s backyard.

Mr Waihenya’s Coldstone Investment Ltd has written several letters to Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja to protest against what they say is irregular building approval and demolition of boundary wall by Khaleej Towers Limited “that is claiming access to non-existent sewer wayleave within our property boundary”.

Mr Waihenya also reported the incident at Eastleigh North Police Station in December 2022, accusing the developer of malicious damage and interference with boundary fixtures. The incident was recorded in the police occurrence book under OB number 48/31/12/2022.

No action was taken and instead the developer’s agents reportedly stormed his backyard to install a sewer manhole.

This led to an altercation between Mr Waihenya’s caretaker and security guard, and agents of Khaleej Towers, twice in February and March, 2023.

Mr Waihenya still made another report at the same police station regarding the intrusion into his property in May 2023.

Following the altercation with the agents of the developer, his workers — the caretaker and security guard — were arrested and charged in June 2023.

They were released on a cash bail of Sh50,000 each.

With the assistance of the police and Nairobi City Inspectorate officers, on February 27 and May 24, 2023 employees of Khaleej Towers forcibly secured the sewer line connection at his backyard.


High-rise commercial and residential buildings in Eastleigh as seen from the rooftop of the Business Bay Square Shopping Mall on October 25, 2023. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

“We have come to discover that the motive and purpose of these arrests and intimidation is to help Khaleej Towers Limited arm-twist us to allow their illegal and unorthodox connection in our property boundary as a condition to have the charges against my caretaker and watchman dropped,” Mr Waihenya wrote in a complaint in June 2023 addressed to the director, Internal Affairs Unit in the National Police Service.

He sought the office’s help to investigate the conduct of the police officers handling the matter.

He has since written protest letters to senior county officials, including county secretary, seeking assistance to end the row with the developer.

His persistence bore fruit, or so he thought, when the Nairobi City County’s Office of the County Chief Officer, Public Health, responded positively in a letter dated February 9, 2024.

Mr Waihenya had lodged a complaint against the developer with the office on November 15, 2023. 

This complaint prompted the county to conduct a site inspection on November 20, 2023, that found Khaleej Towers had committed numerous violations.

Given the gravity of the violations detailed in the inspection report, the county cancelled the approvals for the building plan issued to Khaleej Towers Limited.

In a letter sent to the Commission of Administrative Justice on March 14, 2024, the acting Nairobi County Secretary, Patrick Analo, confirmed that the approved plan — No. CPF-AW765 — was cancelled in November 2023.

This was after the Ombudsman wrote to the county seeking access to the documents to prove that the building plan had been revoked because of the violations.

The Nation established the county authorities even issued an enforcement notice on January 31, 2023, stating that the building was being constructed contrary to the approval plan and directing the developer to stop. 

"Stop further development immediately and avail approved plans and structured integrity report within seven days... this notice shall take effect on February 6, 2023,” stated the notice, issued by the Director, Planning, Compliance and Enforcement, Nairobi City County.

But even with the order compelling the developer to cease operations, somehow, construction of the building continued.

Yet another inspection by county officials in November 2023 had damning findings. Officials established that there was no sewer wayleave cutting across Mr Waihenya’s backyard as Khaleej Towers Limited had argued and also found that the place where the developer had insisted on securing the sewer connection is private property.

According to the county inspection report, the developer had also made an illegal opening that allowed access to the complainant’s backyard, action that interfered with the “safety, security and privacy” of the apartment that has tenants. 

The report also faulted Khaleej Towers for not providing safety measures to prevent construction debris from falling into neighbouring premises.

In particular, the report stated construction material fell on Mr Waihenya’s backyard and had destroyed the roof on his building.

The inspection also established that Khaleej Towers had failed to leave the required minimum clear window distances for all its rooms, leading to inadequate natural lighting and ventilation in the building.

“There is encroachment to three metres distance at the setback and surrender on the frontage of the building. The extension is contrary to the approved plans. The construction is contrary to the approved plans, no clear window distance at the backside, hence the window openings to the backside wall opens to the neighbour’s plot,” the county inspection report stated.

County inspectors recommended Khaleej Towers provides proper netting all-around the construction, removes all the illegal hoarding placed at the neighbouring plot and to reconstruct the demolished wall.

The developer was also instructed to provide space and method of solid waste management for the building. Khaleej Towers was also to improve the ventilation and lighting of rooms.


The skyline of Nairobi City's Central Business District as seen from the rooftop of Business Bay Square (BBS) Mall in Eastleigh on October 25, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

On February 12, 2024, Mr Michira Nyakaba, the Chief Officer, Public Health, Nairobi, wrote to Mr Waihenya, confirming that the county had found Khaleej Towers had breached building requirements, and detailing the recommendations. 

Despite the cancellation of the building approvals, the developer has somehow bypassed the bureaucratic labyrinth and construction is still ongoing.

With each passing day, the structure grows taller, an emblem of Khaleej Tower's defiance to authority.

The failure to enforce safety measures to prevent debris from causing harm has already brought tragedy. On February 8, 2024, a woman was killed by a block falling from the construction site.

An incident report at Eastleigh North Police Station recorded under OB 40/08/02/2024 detailed how Arfon Yassin Diriye died. 

“She was walking together with her nine-year-old daughter along Kirongothi Street when a stone block fell from the top of Khaleej Towers, a house under construction and hit her on the head thereby crushing her head,” the police record stated.

The mother was pronounced dead on arrival at Hamlin Hospital. Her daughter sustained injuries on her right ankle and was admitted to the same facility.

Starehe Sub County Police Commander Fred Abuga regretted alarming cases of injuries and deaths at construction sites in the rapidly growing Eastleigh and Pangani estates. 

“About falling of people and objects from high-rise buildings under construction, that is very common. We have cases reported every week about people falling from such buildings, especially construction workers, and we also have objects falling on passers-by within those areas. In most of the cases, people succumb to the injuries,” Mr Abuga said. 

The police boss said after investigations by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations team within the sub county, one of the findings is poor safety standards, particularly shoddily done scaffolding. 

“However, we have the National Construction Authority (NCA) and the county government that issue licences and other bodies that deal with occupational and health safety of construction sites. They are the ones who should ensure that standards are kept for the buildings under construction,” Mr Abuga said.

Khaleej Tower Limited's lawyer declined to respond to our enquiries on issues raised for this story.

But Mr Waihenya is lucky his plot is still secure because three families are battling to regain land in Eastleigh.

By a gazette notice dated February 16, 2024, Mr Abdiweli Aden Duntow should have ceased construction on the land belonging to the families of Nungari Kihuthia, Gakuya Waweru and Mwangi Gicho.

In the gazette notice, land registrar C.J. Maroa ruled the title deed for Land Reference number 36/V11/344 presented by Mr Duntow was fake and that he should surrender it for cancellation.

The land registrar held Mwangi, Gakuya and Nungari were the registered owners of the land on equal shares through their representative administrators James Wachira, David Gakuya and David Mwangi.

Besides the decision by the Lands registrar, the disputed land has also been the subject of proceedings at the Environment and Land Court in Nairobi.

On October 23, last year, the court directed maintenance of status quo, which meant the three families that had tenants of the land retained possession, pending determination of the suit.

But the three families instituted contempt of court proceedings against Mr Abdiweli, accusing him of evicting their tenants on December 2, last year, and demolishing the old houses.

According to court papers, the houses which were demolished by Mr Abdiweli yielded a monthly rent of Sh200,000, which was shared among the three families.

The court on April 22, this year, found Mr Abdiweli in contempt of court and directed that he appears for sentencing.

But despite court orders against Mr Abdiweli, the families are unable to regain their land because goons chase them away as construction goes on. 

When Nation reached out to them, they referred us to their lawyer Stephen Ndeda.

“We won the case in court and got orders but the person who is being accused of grabbing the land has continuously ignored the orders and goes on developing the parcel,” said Mr Ndeda.

According to the lawyer, the Ministry of Lands on December 28, 2023, summoned all parties to decide the owner of the disputed land.

Only the three families represented by David Gakuya, David Mwangi and James Wachira honored the summons.

Mr Duntow and Mr Stanley Machuhi Kimunya, who is purported to have sold the land to him never showed up at the hearing held on December 28, last year, at the Geospartial Data Centre (GDC).

Also present during the hearing were Mr Joseph Kamuyu, who is a land registrar in charge GDC as well as land registrars Mr Stephen Chege and Mr Umukulthum Dawood.

Mr Ndenda, the advocate representing the three families and Mr Marvin Waweru, the son of David Gakuya also attended the session.

Documents in our possession reveal that the land was first registered on April 8, 1953, in the names of Sardara Singh, Haribhajan Singh, Gian Singh and Talochian Singh as tenants with equal shares.

The land would later be transferred to Mwangi Gicho, Gakuya Waweru and Nungari Kihuithia on April 4, 1968.

However, on July 26, 2023, it became a subject of investigations after officers attached to the DCI’s Land Fraud Unit sought documentation that had been used to effect the transfer to Mr Abdiweli.

The investigations were triggered by complaints from the three families.

“Upon checking the records, the office established that the register contained an entry purporting that the said parcel of land was transferred to one Stanley Machuhi Kimunya on March 18, 1974,” the documents revealed.

According to the documents, the said entry contradicted the official search dated May 18, 2017, which was issued by the office and which listed Mwangi, Gakuya and Nungari as the registered owners.

On December 4, 2023, Ndeda and Company Advocates wrote to Lands Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome complaining about unlawful demolition and eviction of tenants from the land.

“The firm requested for preservation of the title in respect of the parcel and issued a letter confirming the lawful owner of the parcel. The office of the CS, through a memo dated December 4, 2023, wrote to the officers in charge Nairobi and Central registries, instructing them to place a restriction on the register,” the documents further reveal.

Following the instructions, all the parties were summoned to discuss the matter but Mr Abdiwali and Mr Kimunya never attended the session.

The families seeking to reclaim the land said Mr Kimunya and Mr Abdiweli are not known to them.

After Mr Abdiweli claimed ownership, they moved to the Environment and Land court in Nairobi to restrain him from taking over the property.

The families said that they had paid rates for the land to the City County of Nairobi for over 55 years and that the respective estates had not completed the succession processes.

According to a report by the Ministry of Lands, the families had genuine documents to proof ownership.

The ministry then cancelled the Certificate of Lease granted to Mr Abdiweli and the entry expunged from the register.

Equally another entry with the name of Mr Kimunya was to be expunged from the register.

Mr Ndeda said that Mr Abdiweli is developing the land even after the court issued orders that he stops doing so.

“He claims that he is untouchable and that he has the protection of the police. We are now wondering why he is operating against the law and nothing is being done to stop him,” said Mr Ndeda.

When the Nation visited the land, construction was ongoing and private security guards guarded the premises.

The construction is also ongoing in defiance of orders issued by Justice A Angote who ruled Mr Abdiweli was acting in contempt of court.


In another part of Nairobi, Mr Abdisalan Hussein is counting losses after his eight-bedroom house was written off as inhabitable by experts.

An architect and engineer had assessed the property to establish the structural effects to the house as a result of excavation works on an adjacent construction site.

Mr Hussein said the developer digging up a foundation of a skyscraper did not heed to his concerns. He has been forced to evacuate his family from the house.

In their report on the state of Mr Hussein’s house, the engineer, Isaiah Ondiba, and architect, Evans Kegoba, observed the house had visible cracks on the wall adjacent to the construction site.

“This was as a result of excavation that disturbed the building’s foundations. This building could be visually seen leaning towards the sections whose foundations had been disturbed. This is due to ground movements,” the report said.

So serious was the ground movement that the main gate to Mr Hussein’s home collapsed.

The report established that his boundary wall next to the construction site had also collapsed.

The assessment also established that the contractor’s hoarding materials had encroached on Mr Hussein’s property by about “500 milimetres (0.5 metres).

“The contractor needs to employ proper construction methodology and adhere to the building code of conduct at all times during the construction in order to safeguard the adjacent buildings and protect workers and the general public,” the report concluded.

Still, the contractor continued with the excavation works, which forced Mr Hussein to seek help from the Director, Planning, Compliance and Enforcement at Nairobi City County.

This saw the issuance of an enforcement notice to the developer on the plot, LR No. 1879/111/233, along school lane.

The notice stated that for “carrying out excavation works leading to encroachment on neighbour’s property” the developer was “hereby required to stop any further development forthwith and reinstate the encroached part of land to its original state within 21 days.”

There was even a “suspension of works order” issued by the National Construction Authority (NCA) to the property owner, Salepush Investments Limited, and the contractor.

NCA directed that the works remain suspended until the registration process is complete. Mr Hussein’s wall fell a month later on May 4, 2024.

On April 18, 2024, Mr Hussein went to the Environmental and Land Court in Milimani, Nairobi, and sought orders to have the construction works stopped.

The accused in this suit were the developer, Salepush Investment Limited, and the contractor, Shyam General Merchants Limited.

“The court hereby do issue a status quo to be observed by all parties, which means there is no sale, no transfer, no construction, no transacting, no dealing, no alienating, no action to be taken on the suit property as at May 9, 2024, until the suit is heard and determined,” the court ruled on May 9.

On May 28, Justice Jacqueline Mogeni found ongoing works by Salepush Investment Limited is in contempt of court orders.

Salepush’s lawyers had argued that the developer had interpreted the suit property as Mr Hussein’s house and had therefore carried on with construction.

The judge was not amused by that interpretation.

“We all know the consequences of disobeying court orders,” the judge warned.

The court will make a final determination on October 9.

Salepush Investment Limited officials said they could not comment on a matter that is before court.