Uchumi Supermarkets #ticker:UCHM has received a major shot in the arm after the High Court declared the cash-strapped retailer to be the legal owner of a 20-acre piece of land valued at around Sh2.3 billion.
The land in Nairobi’s Roysambu area on the Thika super highway has been the subject of protracted court battles between the retail chain and squatters who had claimed ownership of the prime property.
Uchumi, which has been struggling to pay suppliers and service its debts, had announced its intention to sell the land so as to inject much needed liquidity on its balance sheet.
In her ruling, Environment and Land Division judge Lucy Gacheru found that Kasarani Mall Limited, an Uchumi subsidiary, had proved its right to the land by attaching ownership documents it acquired after purchasing the parcel from another firm, Solio Construction Limited, in 2001.
Through Kasarani Mall Limited, Uchumi had sued Roysa Self-Help Group and its officials, Daniel Miganga, David Kollal and Gilbert Macharia, for claiming ownership of the land and threatening to forcibly take its possession.
The self-help group claimed that its members were given the land by one of its original owners, Jacob Samuel Meshmor, for development purposes.
The group further claimed that the ownership documents presented by Uchumi were forgeries.
But Justice Gacheru ruled that a 2008 investigation report on the property published by the office of the Deputy Public Prosecutor, now known as the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, had given a clean bill of health to Uchumi’s purchase of the property.
The judge added that the report also found that Solio Construction had also validly acquired the land before selling it to Uchumi in 2001.
“The DPP further concluded that Kasarani Mall Limited held a valid title and he further concluded that the caveat therein should be removed. The certificate of title held by Kasarani Mall Limited has not been expunged or revoked. There is no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing by Kasarani Mall Limited,” Justice Gacheru said.
“Kasarani Mall Limited was a willing buyer who bought the suit land from a willing seller whom the DPP has concluded was validly issued with the title deed. Therefore this court finds that Kasarani Mall Limited’s title to the suit property is valid,” she added.
Justice Gacheru’s ruling comes as the retailer fights ownership claims on the land by another self-help group, Njathaini Electricity Project.
The group moved to court in January, claiming that its members have resided on the land for more than 30 years hence should be declared legal owners.