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Inside former MP’s fight for iconic Simmers Restaurant plot

Former Kimilili MP Suleiman Murunga has scored a first win in his bid to reclaim a plot where the once popular Simmers Restaurant in Nairobi’s central business district stood after a judge ordered the status quo be maintained.

Environment and Land Court Justice Jacqueline Mogeni 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.

Mr 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.

The restaurant then had over 67 employees and enjoyed prominence as one of the major outlets of alcoholic products, with several awards, Mr Murunga said.

Mr Murunga had leased the land since 1997 from Nilestar Holdings as Green Valley Ltd, a company being fought over by the family of former Finance minister Arthur 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 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 lift the injunction placed on the eviction of Mr Murunga from the premises.

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