Nairobi News


14 years later, battle rages over Simmers property as former finance minister’s widow visits site

The widow of former Finance Minister Arthur Magugu led her family to a plot where the once popular Simmers Restaurant in Nairobi’s central business district stood in a bold move meant to send a message to other parties fighting for the property that she is the bona fide owner.

But the fight is not over as an appeal before the courts awaits hearing.

For Margaret Magugu, the last court ruling came as a relief to her and pointed to the beginning of the end of a 14-year legal battle that pitted her against former Kimilili MP Suleiman Murunga over the prime property.

“I am here first to thank the courts for agreeing with me that those seeking to take over this property are not genuine people. I also want justice and order in this matter,” she said.

Her visit came a day after suspected goons raided the property Monday night leaving at least six people, including a journalist injured. More than 12 people were arrested in the fracas.

Ms Magugu, the owner of Nilestar Holdings which claims ownership of the plot tasted her first round of victory in court after Justice Ogutu Mboya made a ruling on June 13 that reaffirmed her as having possession, occupation and use over the land.

“That there be and is hereby granted an order of status quo be maintained over and in respect of the suit property pending the hearing and determination of the suit. For coherence, the status quo shall relate to the current occupation, possession and use of the suit property.”

“That in terms of possession, occupation and use, it is hereby confirmed that it is the first and second defendants who have been in possession and shall thus remain in such occupation and possession,” read the ruling by Justice Mboya.

Nilestar Holdings is the first defendant in the matter before the Environment and Land Court at Milimani.

Justice Mboya clarified that the status quo order did not in any way enable anyone who has been in possession of the land, to enter upon and/or trespass onto the suit property or in any other way interfere with the current use of the suit property,” the judge ordered.

The matter shall proceed for further defence hearing on June 24 and 26, 2024.

But in a surprising twist of events, Murunga filed a fresh suit before Justice Jackline Mogeni with the same parties over the same piece of land.

Justice Mogeni then blocked any transfer, subdivision or use of the parcel, pending the hearing of the petition. She added that further directions would be given on July 9 2024.

Murunga moved to court arguing that he is the beneficial owner of the parcel on Kenyatta Avenue after Simmers Restaurant was forcibly evicted from the plot on March 2, 2018.

Murunga leased the land in 1997 from Nilestar Holdings as Green Valley Ltd, a company being fought over by the family of Magugu and businessman Madatah Hasham Ebraham.

He said Nilestar’s 99-year lease expired on December 31, 2009, and despite application for renewal, it was not granted by the Commissioner of Lands. In 2011, he applied and was allotted the property.

“Upon compliance with the said terms I contend that I ceased being a tenant in the suit premises and became a legal and/or beneficial owner,” he says in an affidavit.

Consequently, he stopped paying rent to Nilestar Holdings, whose directors were aware of the change of ownership. He in 2013 successfully got orders stopping the attachment of his property by the previous owners who were claiming rent of Sh1.62 million.

But shortly after the ruling was delivered, the National Land Commission (NLC) purported to withdraw an allotment letter issued to him.

The letter was subsequently used as a basis for seeking a review of the ruling and to lift the injunction placed on the eviction of Murunga from the premises.