A cabal of politicians, businessmen and wheeler-dealers is jostling to take control of a prime land in the heartland of the Nairobi Central Business District.
In what is fast shaping up as a contest of the mighty, scheming is in high gear for ownership of Muthurwa Estate land that is up for grabs.
The 72-acre prime parcel of land is up for sale with a plan to demolish the old, dirty and dilapidated houses and replace them with ultra-modern housing units, shopping malls, office blocks and parking silos.
"The houses in Muthurwa Estate have been condemned because they are an eyesore. We want to sell the land to raise money for the pension scheme," Mathews Tuikong, the Chief Executive of the Kenya Railways Retirement Benefits Scheme (KRSRBS) told Financial Journal.
Tuikong says the idea is to develop a complex akin to the Westlands Shopping Centre to serve the people of Eastlands.
The KRSRBS, which was established in 2006 after the concessioning of the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) as a pension scheme for former Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) employees, owns the piece of land along Landhies Road.
Traveling along Landhies Road, just past Machakos Country Bus, all the way to City Stadium Roundabout, one notices that most of the trees that have been the trademark of the estate are fast disappearing.
The Financial Journal has established that a business lady with connections in City Hall bought all the trees at Sh5,000 per tree. Noticeably, her employees are already on the ground cutting timber from the trees.
Though Tuikong admitted the lady paid for all the trees to KRSRBS, he could not explain why there was no competitive bidding before selling off the trees.
But even as wheeler-dealers plot on how to own a piece of the century-old estate, residents have vowed to block the planned demolition.
"We are going to resist the demolition by all means," said Patrick Kamotho, the spokesman of the residents during a meeting held at the estate a fortnight ago.
During the meeting, the residents presented the former chairman of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission Yash Pal Ghai, with a petition to help them stop the evictions.
The residents have also obtained a temporary court order halting the demolition on the basis that they were not given sufficient vacate notice.
They also want the court to issue a permanent injunction stopping KRSRBS from evicting them and a declaration that they are entitled to reside in the premises under the Tenancy Agreement Act.
Tuikong, however, says the scheme is determined to push through the sale of the land to raise money to pay about 9,000 pensioners their dues.
The scheme has appointed real estate firms Lloyd Masika Ltd, K. Gilam Valuers & Property Managers and Crystal Valuers Ltd as the selling agents of the land estimated to have a book value of KSh3 billion (US$ 3571428.57) but with a potential to raise up to Sh5 billion.
"We have instructions from KRSRBS to dispose the property and any company, individual or group of persons can purchase," said Amos Kiplagat of K. Gilam Valuers & Property Managers.
He says the three selling agents have received good responses from interested buyers after the property was advertised in local dailies but refused to divulge details of the calibre of the bidders.
Already, KRSRBS, working with Nairobi City Council, has sub-divided the land with an eighth of a plot expected to cost Sh27.5 million, quarter acre Sh45 million, half-acre Sh75 million and an acre Sh135 million.
"The Council has approved sub-division of plots and the surveyors are currently putting beacons on the land," said Tuikong.
But with KRSRBS being the embodiment of failure as far as management of pension schemes is concerned, there are fears the disposal of the land will be marred by influence peddling from well-connected individuals and the land could end up in the hands of dealmakers.
It is not hard to see why there is widespread apprehension. For instance, questions are being raised on the status of a proposed development of Golf City along Uhuru Highway.
The project, a partnership between KRSRBS and KRC, has quietly gone silent even after the two entities conceptualised magnificent designs consisting a nine whole golf course, five-star hotel, conference facilities, shopping mall among other developments.
Though KRC advertised for the 73-acre piece of land and 44 companies expressed interest, the Chinese firm that won the contract to develop the $600 million project is still encountering hurdles that have made it impossible to develop the project.
Besides the botched Golf City, KRSRBS has also been on the bad books of industry regulator Retirement Benefit Authority (RBA) due to complains by pensioners that the scheme has been engaging in irregular disposal of assets.
Categories of assets
But Tuikong defended the scheme, saying KRSRBS has been managing the assets based on a masterplan crafted by the Board of Trustees classified on three categories of assets for refurbishment, assets for disposal and assets for re-development.
"Muthurwa Estate falls under the second category of assets for disposal," says Tuikong.
He says the scheme is desperately seeking ways to raise money to pay pensioners, some of whom have been camping at the scheme�s offices demanding to be paid.
KRSRBS, says Tuikong, pays Sh55 million to pensioners every month.
Court Stops Demolition Of Muthurwa Houses
THE Kenya Railways has been stopped from pulling down houses in Nairobi's Muthurwa estate. High court judge George Dulu gave Muthurwa tenants a month's reprieve and blocked the Kenya Raikvays Staff Retirements Benefit Scheme from flattening the houses.
The temporary order blocking the demolition was first given on July 14 by Justice Kalpana Rawal and extended yesterday by Justice Dulu after landlords argued a six-day vacate notice was illegal. The tenants say the Kenya Railways scheme terminated their tenancy agreement two weeks ago and ordered the demolition of the buildings. The notice gave them six days to vacate the houses, failure to which their houses will be demolished.
The tenants say the move is unfair because they had not been given' enough time to be heard, which' is contrary to the principles of natural justice. They accused the scheme of ending the tenancy agreement before the expiry of the agreed time.
The say the action is in bad faith and the Scheme is being unreasonable by giving them a week's notice. Kenya Railways recently demolished a number of houses in the same area after evicting other tenants. They say they have been living peacefully at the premises for close to 30 years and have paid all rent and monies payable in the premises.
"If evicted, majority of us who are elderly and our children may be rendered vulnerable. Our property could be stolen and we could be exposed to harsh weather conditions which may adversely affect our health," the tenants said in court papers.
They want the court to issue a permanent injunction against Kenya Railways from evicting them. They also seek a declaration that they are entitled to reside in the premises under the Tenancy Agreement Act.
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