Govt negligence costs taxpayer Sh700m for demolished mansion
Negligence by the government has cost the taxpayer more than Sh700 million in compensating a businessman whose house in Nairobi’s Spring Valley suburb was unlawfully demolished seven years ago.
But Mike Maina, a city tycoon who also owns Marble Arc Hotel, had the last laugh after the court ordered the State Law Office to pay him damages amounting to Sh712 million.
The Environment and Land Court Judge gave Mr Maina Sh651 million as replacement of the property, Sh50 million general damages for distress, pain and suffering and Sh10 million in aggravated and exemplary damages.
And to avoid unjust enrichment, the judge ordered Mr Maina to surrender his certificate of title for the property to the State upon being paid the lump sum together with the costs of litigation and accrued interest.
Mr Maina had argued that he had a valid certificate of title to the property issued by the government and a 99-year lease from September 1, 1990.
On the morning of July 14, 2010, the businessman watched in horror as earth movers descended into his posh Sh100 million eight-bedroom house and reduced it to a heap of rubble in an operation led by former Roads Minister Franklin Bett.
During court proceedings, Mr Bett accused the businessman of unlawfully acquiring the property through fraud, misrepresentation or mistake, saying the house was pulled down because it stood inside a road reserve earmarked for the construction of Red Hill link Road to the Northern Bypass.
He said repeated warnings to the owner to vacate the property were ignored forcing the government to destroy it to pave way for the construction of the 21 km bypass.
Mr Bett denied the wrongful demolition and said Mr Maina did not hold good title to the property. He also challenged the figures raised for damages arguing that the tycoon encroached on a road reserve and was therefore not entitled to any compensation.
He said because the land title had been obtained fraudulently, he pleaded with the court to cancel it and restore the land to the government for road construction. He stated that public interest overrode Mr Maina’s interest and urged the court to dismiss the suit.
NO EVIDENCE TABLED
But Justice Gacheru, in her ruling, rebuked Mr Bett (above), saying there was no evidence tabled in court to show the businessman was warned against the impending action on his property and rejected claims the land had been acquired through fraud.
“This court finds and holds that Mr Maina’s right to property was breached by the action of the State officers from the Roads ministry and specifically the Minister for Roads himself, who supervised the said illegal demolition,” said the judge.
Mr Maina moved to court in 2010 and demanded Sh571 million from the government following the demolition of his house. He said the amount was the prevailing market value of the property and named the Attorney-General as a respondent in the suit.
Through his lawyer Ochieng Oduol, the tycoon said Sh379 million would cater for special damages and Sh192 million to defray the costs of building the house from May 2007 to July 2010. He said he bought the land for Sh80 million.
He testified that he was the registered owner of the property and had expended substantial funds to construct an elaborate house complete with several luxurious and high-end finishes and amenities including a gym, sauna, swimming pool and a barbeque area.
The tycoon told justice Gacheru that when Mr Bett and senior ministry officials demolished his house, it was almost complete and the architects and contractors were in the process of putting final fittings and hand it over to him.
This story was first published in the Sunday Nation.