EACC sues Joshua Kulei firm for ‘illegally acquiring Sh2.5bn Moi airport land’

Joshua Kulei

A section of the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. A firm belonging to former President Daniel Moi aide Joshua Kulei (inset) is accused of grabbing land belonging to the airport. 

Photo credit: Pool

The anti-corruption agency yesterday moved to court in a bid to recover 10 parcels of land that were allegedly grabbed from Moi International Airport (MIA) in Mombasa, including military and United Nation (UN) support bases, worth Sh2.5 billion.

In the case filed before the Environment and Land Court in Mombasa, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) also seeks to recover Sh984.3 million it says was illegally paid as compensation for land compulsorily acquired for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Dongo Kundu-Kipevu road projects.

Documents filed in court indicate the National Land Commission (NLC) paid the millions to East African Gas Company Limited, which is currently registered as the owner of all the parcels of the airport land.

The directors of the company are listed in the court documents as Joshua Chelelgo Kulei, Caroline Jebet Kigen and Kipkurui Kimosop.

The three have also been named as respondents in the more than five files deposited by EACC in court yesterday.

According to the anti-graft commission, the properties it seeks to recover belong to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) but were fraudulently transferred to private developers.

The ethics agency argues that the parcels are public land set aside for use by the Mombasa airport under the management of KAA.

The properties include part of the MIA runway, a UN support base and a Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) base and its security watchtower.

Also sued in the case are former KAA director Peter Kipyegon Lagat, Gas Company Limited – which transferred all the parcels under its name to the East African Gas Company Limited – Frankway Link Agencies, Jeewi Ltd, Peninsula Agencies, Spelling International, Park Mansions Ltd, Jay&K Enterprises, Kokog Investments Ltd and Bush Veld Limited.

According to the EACC, some of the companies were used to facilitate the transactions.

The individuals listed as respondents are Mr Malachi Ooro, Mr G.P. Gomu, former lands commissioner Wilson Gachanja, and former NLC executive officer Tom Aziz Chavangi and Director of Valuation Salome Munubi.

“The NLC officials are sued because of facilitating illegal compensation for parcels of the land following compulsory acquisition for construction of the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR and the Dongo Kundu-Kipevu road project, despite the fact that the parcels were public land set aside for MIA,” EACC said after filing the case.

The commission argues that “KAA was deprived of a strategic asset for the administration, control, management and advancement of state operations” relating to the Moi International Airport when the parcels were fraudulently grabbed.

Documents filed in court show the government, vide Gazette Notice No. 1161 of March 14, 1961, reserved the land measuring approximately 1,183 acres located in section VI mainland north of Mombasa Municipality (Airport Land) for an aerodrome namely Port Reitz Aerodrome, which was later renamed Moi International Airport.

The land was held by the Aerodromes Department in the Office of the President as a public utility on behalf of the people of Kenya. The government then acquired the land in 1972 for Moi Airport Development.

When Port Reitz Aerodrome was renamed, EACC says all its assets and liabilities were transferred to KAA.

EACC further alleges that in 1996, Mr Lagat fraudulently, without approval and consent of the KAA board of directors, and in excess of his powers, ordered a survey of the MIA perimeter.

The survey, the ethics agency now says, resulted in the production of two survey plans that reflected reduced acreage of the original parcel to 538.76 hectares.

“Subsequently, Mr Lagat initiated the process that led to the irregular excision and illegal alienation of the land intended for MIA in favour of 12 private individuals and entities,” EACC said.

The ethics agency also accuses Mr Gachanja of facilitating irregular excision and illegal alienation of the land in 1996. Mr Gachanja and two others are also accused of aiding illegal acquisition of public land by private developers in Kwale.

EACC alleges that Gas Company Ltd, which transferred all the 12 parcels to East African Gas Company Ltd in 2016, received Sh141.3 million as compensation for five parcels for the Dongo Kundu road project. Investigations established that the property had accumulated years’ worth of unpaid rates.

In 2017, the EACC adds, the same company received Sh843 million for the five parcels of land compulsorily acquired for the SGR project.

“Despite EACC issuing all the defendants with demands to surrender the property and notices of intention to sue in default thereof, the defendants have failed to comply, necessitating the filing of these suits,” the agency says in the court documents.

The petitioner now wants the court to declare that the excision and subsequent alienation of the land was illegal, null and void, and that an order be issued to the Land Registrar, Mombasa District Registry, to rectify the register through cancellation of the entries relating to the allegedly grabbed parcels of land.

The EACC further seeks to have the said parcels registered in the name of KAA, and the East African Gas Company Ltd ordered to immediately vacate the land.

The agency also seeks a permanent injunction restraining the company, “its agents, servants, employees and assignees from trespassing upon, transferring, leasing, charging, wasting and or dealing in any manner whatsoever” in the parcels other than by way of a surrender to the Government of Kenya.

“The petitioner prays for a declaration that the compensation for the parcels compulsorily acquired by NLC for the two projects was illegal, null and void,” the watchdog says in its filings.

The EACC also seeks an order that the East African Gas Company Ltd and the two NLC officials should “jointly and severally” pay the government a total sum of Sh984,393,705, being the “illegal compensation for compulsory acquisition of the land for the two projects”.