Inside Nakuru families fight to control Sh55bn inheritance disputes
What you need to know:
- An estimated Sh55 billion is at the centre of various inheritance disputes in Nakuru by relatives of prominent multi-millionaires, who left behind successful business empires.
- The families’ billions are now locked in the court battles.
- The list includes Nakuru politicians Kihika Kimani and Philip Kamau, controversial Naivasha tycoon Gabriel Njoroge popularly known as Fai Amario.
An estimated Sh55 billion is at the centre of various inheritance disputes in Nakuru by relatives of prominent multi-millionaires, who left behind successful business empires.
The families’ billions are now locked in the court battles.
The list includes Nakuru politicians Dickson Kihika Kimani and Philip Kamau, controversial Naivasha tycoon Gabriel Njoroge who was popularly known as Fai Amario, and businessman Stephen Kagiri Kung’u. There was also Eliakim Washington Olweny — a wealthy surveyor and owner of Evans Sunrise Hospital, a top private hospital in Nakuru City — who died on October 10, 2016.
The tycoons got their wealth through grit and hard work; for some, theirs are the real rags-to-riches stories.
However, their families are now embroiled in bruising court battles over who should take over the estates, as others fight new claimants for a stake in the wealth.
The amount of money and value of property involved in the nasty court battles is huge, and some of the cases have dragged on for more than a decade.
Nakuru-based lawyer Steve Biko Osur attributes the vicious court battles to the fact that many of the men died before writing a will.
"Most of the tycoons whose families are battling in courts either did not write wills or a clear succession path, which led their families to fight for property in court. Others are a result of second and third wives seeking recognition in the distribution of wealth," says Mr Biko.
Fai Amario dispute
One of the longest-running disputes has been that of the family of Naivasha businessman Fai Amario.
The tycoon died 12 years ago while receiving treatment in Nairobi. His children are in court fighting one another for their father’s Sh760 million estate.
The founder of Kenya’s pioneer micro-brewery, Amario left behind a fortune now worth in excess of Sh760 million, according to a valuation report by the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning.
Amario, who dropped out of Starehe Boys Centre, died intestate (without a will) on May 23, 2010, leaving behind the fortune that is at the centre of a bitter succession case involving his eight children and two wives.
In Naivasha, Amario, built Fai Amario Wineries Ltd at Sh17 million. He then changed his name from Gilbert Njoroge to Fai Amario.
He was distilling low-end brands that were very popular. He invested in land and buildings, among others in Naivasha, Kyeni in Embu County and Kiambu.
At the centre of the succession case is Amario’s son Miki Ng’ang’a Njoroge, the administrator of his estate. Mr Ng’ang’a filed the succession case after he faced objections over control of the property from his sister Marsha Dee, step-mother Bernice Njeri and half-sister Sheila Wangari.
Amario owned 103 parcels of land whose total area is more than 130 acres.
Eighty-nine (117.1 acres) of the 103 parcels of land are valued at Sh750.6 million. The remaining 14 parcels of over 13 acres have not been valued.
The Naivasha factory sits on 5.6 acres in Mwichiringiri, worth Sh78 million.
Amario also owned the Sh13.5 million Den Hotel on a 6.5-acre parcel in Naivasha worth Sh81.25 million, bringing the total value to Sh94.75 million.
Others include prime land in Naivasha valued at Sh44 million, two homes in Naivasha home worth Sh75.65 million and Sh16.5 million and an industrial area plot in Naivasha town worth Sh8 million.
In the latest development, the tycoon’s daughter has moved to the Nakuru High Court seeking to stop her siblings from managing their father’s estate.
Ms Dee has sued her elder brother Ng’ang’a and younger sister Sheena Euston before Justice Teresia Matheka, seeking to restrain the two administrators from dealing in any way with their late father’s estate, including his company Fai Amario Ltd.
Registering new company
According to Ms Dee, her siblings conspired to undermine the interests of other beneficiaries by secretly registering a new company; Wonder Water Ltd.
“My siblings had a motive to misuse the family’s property and misappropriate equipment owned by our winery without my knowledge and that of other beneficiaries,” reads part of documents filed in court.
Stephen Kung’u, another successful Nakuru-based businessman who established his empire in the 1980s and 1990s, died in April 2015, leaving behind an estate estimated to be worth in excess of Sh50 billion, including the well-known Hotel Kunste, not far from the Nakuru State House, and Pivot Hotel in the Shabab area of Nakuru.
A few months after his death, his widow, three daughters and a son turned against one another, all claiming to have been given the right to administer the late businessman’s wealth, including his bank accounts and large tracts of prime land.
In Nairobi, Kung’u owned Luthuli House, Ambassador Court near Integrity Centre, Grace House, three-storey blocks in Hurlingham, Ojijo Plaza, shares in Kuka Investment Ltd, buildings in Ngara, Shalom Prayer Centre, Parklands Villa and the Monte Carlo hotel.
Kung'u also owned land in Nakuru, Kiambu, Nyahururu and Gilgil.
His account at Barclays Bank, Westlands Branch, had more than Sh1.5 billion at the time of his death.
In 2015, his three daughters — Naomi Wambui, Rahab Wamucii and Bilha Wanjiku — accused their stepmother of undermining their right to inherit their late father's wealth. The three are daughters of the late tycoon and his second wife Joyce Wanjiru Kung'u, who died in 2009.
When they moved to the High Court in Nakuru on September 7, 2015, the daughters sought to block their stepmother from evicting them from an apartment in Hurlingham owned by the family.
The widow and her son went to court soon after the burial and obtained the rights to administer the estate.
The daughters filed another suit in Nairobi seeking an order to bar the two from taking over as administrators. The dispute is still in court.
Mr David Kuria, a Nakuru businessman, described Kung'u as a hard-working man who built his empire from scratch.
"He was an icon and one of the pillars of Nakuru, whose establishments will forever remain landmarks here in Nakuru City and elsewhere," he added.
The family of veteran politician Dickson Kihika Kimani, a former Nakuru North MP and father of Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika, is also embroiled in a property tussle.
The family members are fighting over the administration of a Sh600 million estate.
Three children of the firebrand lawmaker have sued their four mothers in a bruising succession battle.
Ms Florence Nduta, Mr Anthony Kihika and Ms Judy Muthoni want to replace their mothers — Margaret Wambui, Alice Mukuhi, Mary Wangari and Miriam Warau — as administrators of the estate.
In the case filed in 2018, the three argue that their mothers are old and can no longer take care of the property.
Widows of Nakuru businessman Washington Olweny are also fighting over a Sh200 million estate.
Days after Olweny's death in December 2016, his three wives moved to court over the inheritance of his estate.
Besides Evans Sunrise Hospital in Nakuru town, Olweny owned property in Nakuru, Kisumu and Nairobi.
Olweny's second and third wives Norah Olweny and Anna Wanjiru claimed they were married to him under Luo traditions.
They obtained orders restraining the first wife, Phelesiah Olweny and her sons Edwin Olweny and Timothy Olweny, from removing the body from Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi until their application was heard and determined.
Even after the tycoon was quietly buried at his rural home in Ukwala, Siaya County, the succession battle has been raging since 2017, with his son Allan Onyango seeking to lock out his two step-mothers from the family's estate.
Last year, Mr Onyango claimed in court that Ms Atieno and Ms Wanjiru were not married to his father. The two women are the objectors in the succession case filed by Ms Akoth, Mr Onyango’s mother.
Mr Onyango, who was enjoined in the case as an interested party, claims Ms Atieno and Ms Wanjiru were misleading the court to benefit from property to which they are not entitled.
"Ms Wanjiru was only a mistress of the deceased and not his wife as recorded in court documents," he argues.
Mr Onyango told the court the two women had no capacity to get married to his father since they were still in other marriages at the time they claimed to have met him.
Recently, Ms Wanjiru told a Nakuru court that the tycoon wanted his three wives to co-exist harmoniously.
"My husband always wanted us to live harmoniously. He once gathered us, the wives, and his extended family at Akoth's house and pleaded with us to live as a family," she told Justice Teresia Matheka.
Last month, Ms Atieno withdrew a consent she signed to undergo a DNA test alongside her son, which was to prove that she had a son with the late tycoon.
In an application dated January 6 and filed at the High Court in Nakuru, Ms Atieno is fighting her Ms Akoth and Ms Wanjiru for control of Olweny’s estate.
Family members of the late Nakuru politician Philip Kamau have also been fighting for his Sh1 billion estate, since he died on May 1, 2012.
He served as a prisons officer in the 1960s, a councillor between 1969 and 1974, and a nominated MP between 1974 and 1979.
Kamau’s widows Teresia Njeri, Margaret Damat and Lucy Wanjiru have teamed up with their stepson, Joseph Njuguna, as they seek to take control of the estate.
The four have ganged up against Mr Njuguna’s sister Elizabeth Wanjiku. Mr Njuguna and Ms Wanjiku are the children of Kamau’s first wife Alice Kahaki, a businesswoman who died on August 25, 1983.
In a will filed in court, the late politician owned the famous Pinkam and Molo Houses at the heart of Nakuru City, business premises, movable and immovable properties, a funeral home, a slaughterhouse and prime plots.
He also owned residential homes, shops and other enterprises. He also had savings in banks, shares in Mwariki and Kiamunyi Farm Ltd, Embakasi Ranching Ltd and Mang’u Enterprise Ltd.
The other court battle revolves around the estate of British settler Crawford, who died a bachelor in 2014.
When he arrived in Kenya around 1950, Crawford settled in Mwariki, Nakuru County, where he practised horticulture and kept pets, including dogs and donkeys.
He made vast sums of money through farming and other business ventures.
He also established multimillion-shilling milk businesses, a number of petrol stations and other enterprises, including Blue Cross Kennels.
Crawford was attacked and seriously injured by robbers in 2008. Doctors said he developed Parkinson's disease, which led to loss of memory, a condition that lasted until his death.
With neither an heir nor any information regarding his family, his personal secretary, Ms Sarah Joslyn, expressed interest in being the administrator of the estate.
She is now battling for control of the property with other parties, including Mr Stephen Ngatia Maina, who claims to be part of Crawford's adopted family, and former workers of Crawford who lived on his land.