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Nepotism? Alai puts Governor Sakaja to task over ‘stolen’ 1.5 acres KICC land

The Constitution of Kenya, Article 62 (1) defines public land as “un-alienated governments land, and land which no individual or community ownership can be established by any legal process. Public land also includes land that is lawfully held, used or occupied by any state organ, except such land that is occupied by the state organ as lessee under a private lease.”

The land on which the popular Olive Gardens Restaurant was built on next to the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) and 1.5 acres next to it is now the subject of scandal after Kileleshwa Member of County Assembly claimed the owners of the restaurant and the National Lands Commission colluded to steal the land via weakening a court case regarding the same land.

According to Alai, on behalf of Nairobi County residents and Kenyans at large, they are deeply concerned about irregular and suspicious movements surrounding the handing over of the property to Garden Square Restaurant Limited after critical procedures were overlooked or negligently handled by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja’s offcers and those at KICC in 2009 when the court was handling the case.

“Reports suggest that both Nairobi City County and KICC were conspicuously and intentionally underrepresented in court hearings, raising concerns about the handling of the case. Shockingly, allegations have surfaced indicating that members of the Acting County Secretary who also doubles up as Chief Officer Planning together with some members of the County Assembly’s Planning Committee were compromised through bribes, resulting in a weakened legal
stance. The subsequent loss of the case and the lack of pursuit for an appeal by the County, compounded by accusations of bribery within the county executive leadership, present grave concerns,” began MCA Alai in his November 20, 2023, statement.

He further went on to hint at nepotism being the reason Olive Garden Restaurant won its case against Nairobi County, Board of Nairobi County and the KICC.

“The court’s decision seemingly favoring Garden Square Restaurant Limited, with the National Land Commission (NLC) now mandated as the sole point of contact, raises suspicions of impropriety, especially considering the familial ties between Garden Square Limited’s owner and a high-ranking official at NLC. The son-in-law of Garden Square Restaurant Limited’s main shareholder, Armstrong Kasuku, is also the Director of Legal Affairs at National Land Commission. His name is Brian Ikol Adungo. His wife is Clara Auma Kasuku,” added Mr Alai.

Nairobi County Government, KICC and the Kenya African National Union political party- under the late former president Daniel Moi- at one point all received rent from Garden Square Restaurant for years; and this led to contestation over who actually owned the land. The case was brought to court when the County Government demanded that the Restaurant pay up rent arrears amounting to Sh 21 million and and the owner sought to understand who actually owned the 1.5 acres of land the restaurant sat on, and to whom rent should be remitted to.

The court ended up ruling that neither the County Government, the Board of Nairobi City nor the KICC could lay claim to the public land, and as such, it would be managed by the National Lands Commission as determined by the Constitution- a prayer that the restaurant owner had sought the court to determine as so. The Court also directed Olive Gardens to pay rent to the County Government of Nairobi until the allocation of the land in question was completed.

Alai now links the land’s management by the NLC as an alleged ploy by the restaurant owner to obtain allocation documents of the valuable land because his relative works at the Commission.

“Furthermore, the unauthorized structural alterations carried out by Ashaki Grill, operating under the name Garden by Ashaki on the property, without proper county approvals, is a blatant disregard for regulatory compliance. Most alarming is the reported surveyor’s actions allegedly hiving off 1.5 acres from the KICC land, potentially affecting the integrity of the entire property’s ownership. This act goes against the historical significance of the land, having been recovered and titled to KICC during President Kibaki’s tenure after prior illicit acquisition by KANU.

“Governor Sakaja, it’s imperative that we address these alarming discrepancies. The judgment appears to defy the laws governing land procurement in Kenya and stands as an injustice against the people of Nairobi and Kenyans at large,” continued Mr Alai.

He went on to demand Governor Sakaja clarify on the circumstances of how Garden Square was allocated the land,  the Nairobi County’s legal team’s involvement and representation during the court case and the subsequent decision to not pursue an appeal and to investigate the involvement of the County Secretary, Nairobi City County Assembly’s Planning Committee leadership and any instances of bribery or impropriety.

Mr Alai further demanded to know what steps had been taken to halt any unauthorized construction and land partitioning on the property as well as the County’s official stand and actions regarding the alleged processing of a land title deed for Garden Square Restaurant Limited. In the court judgement, it was revealed that both KICC and the owners of the restaurant had applied for the allocation of allotment letters for the land in question. KICC applied for allocation of the land first.

“Governor Sakaja, the urgency of this matter cannot be overstated. The integrity of our land administration system and the preservation of public resources demand immediate attention and a thorough investigation into these concerning events,” concluded Mr Alai.

Olive Gardens Restaurant Limited has been occupying the premises since 1977.

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