Westlands eviction: Nairobi officials in trouble over altered land records

niraj shah house

The remains of a house along School Lane in Westlands, Nairobi, that belonged to Niraj Shah and his wife, Avani, as pictured on November 8, 2022, following a demolition. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Senior Nairobi County officials are on the spot for allegedly altering the loaded record of 54-year-old Niraj Shah, whose house in Westlands was demolished in November 2022.

This accusation, against officials within the Information Technology and Communications (ICT) department, came up Tuesday, during a hearing by the assembly’s Planning and Housing Committee.

The committee is investigating the controversial eviction of Mr Shah and his wife, Avan, from their Sh70 million property in Westlands, Nairobi.

During the hearing, documents showing the alteration of the land records were presented before the committee.

They showed that the change in records for the multimillion-shilling property happened between February 19 and October 27, 2014.

The ownership details were changed from Mr Batuk Shah, Niraj’s father, to two individuals by the names James Wambugu Gichuki and Samuel Mbugua Kariuki.

According to Robert Okiri, a system analyst at the Nairobi ICT department, they could not establish the names of individuals who made the changes.

“As the ICT department, we cannot trace the ownership details for the property because the details are not in our possession. The information about the land was transferred from the county government to the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) and is now in possession of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA),” Mr Okiri told the committee.

Minority leader Anthony Kiragu pressed the ICT officer to explain why they were citing the KRA yet the changes to the system were made in 2014, when the NMS was not operational in Nairobi.

Mr Okiri reiterated that all the land records for properties in Nairobi were handed to the national government and that they do not have any records on who altered the property details.

Committee chair Alvin Orlando, who is also Kitusuru MCA, said officers who have been investigated have failed to reveal the name of persons who were involved in the alteration of the records.

The ICT department at City Hall is the custodian of data concerning property ownership in Nairobi. Other departments rely on it for information on the payment of land rates.

“The officers we have been investigating over the demolition of the land are not coming out clearly [sic]. They are evading questions and blaming the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). But that is not true. In 2014, KRA was not in charge in Nairobi County,” Mr Orlando said.

“They were the ones handling the system but they have refused to give us the information on who exactly made these changes. We have given them two weeks to come up with documentation so that we can close this investigation and write our report.”

It was not immediately clear what the association was between the two individuals and Lariak Properties Limited, which is claiming ownership to the piece of land where the property is located.

According to the registrar of companies, Lariak Properties is owned by four individuals - Nathaniel Kipkemboi, Samuel Chepkwony, John Rotich and Joel Kiplang’at.

Meanwhile, auctioneer Zachary Barasa, who demolished the couple’s house in November, received a reprieve after the Court of Appeal suspended his sentencing last week.