Heritage

Who is this businessman behind Weston Hotel?

osero

A graduate of JKUAT, Patrick Osero is a close friend of the deputy president William Ruto. ILLUSTRATION | STANSLAUS MANTHI |

Weston Hotel has been in the news – perhaps for the wrong reasons. Before the attempted land grab at Lang’ata Road Primary became hot news, little was known about the 120-room hotel which was opened in 2014.

As the scandal raged – before it turned ugly with the tear-gassing of pupils who had joined activists to pull down a wall – Weston retreated to doing damage control.

As people, many on social media, claimed Deputy President William Ruto was the hotel’s owner, one Patrick Osero emerged and claimed ownership of the facility. And that was through his lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi.

The name Patrick Osero hardly rings a bell. But he is now the face of Weston Hotel. “You think I cannot own such a property?” he posed to a reporter and perhaps to all those doubting him.

Mr Osero insists he owns the hotel, with two others but denies that his friend, Mr Ruto, is one of them. “Mr Ruto is not one of the shareholders,” he said in a phone interview with the Weekender.

Along Lang’ata Road, Weston Hotel is the latest architectural addition, a multimillion shilling project that silently sneaked into the hospitality scene before it found itself caught in the muddy waters of a yester-year land grab.

Before the saga pitting Lang’ata Road Primary School snowballed, few people knew about Weston or its location. Not that much else is known as Mr Osero remains cagey with details.

“We bought the land in 1997 from a company I cannot reveal,” he says.

Weston Hotel land sits on a 0.77ha parcel of land which belonged to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority before it changed hands in the dying days of the Moi regime.

“The land was not grabbed but bought,” insists Mr Osero.

It is this chaotic transition that has become part of Kenya’s land story. Weston is not the first hotel to enter the hospitality industry with bad press. Grand Regency, now Laico Regency, faced similar challenges after its owner, Kamlesh Pattni, was accused of using stolen funds to build what was then referred to as the country’s first six-star hotel.

Before it hit the headlines, Weston was content to remain a new, upscale hotel serving tourists and business travellers.

There is no doubt that the hotel is magnificent. It has deluxe executive suites and is strategically located right opposite Wilson Airport.

The facility is also in close proximity to Nairobi National Park, Karen Blixen Museum and Giraffe Centre, which make it convenient for harried business travellers wishing to relax by catching a glimpse of the city’s wildlife and history. It has meeting rooms, swimming pool, a garden, gym and restaurant.

But it also has another untold story for it sits on a rather controversial square – a block of land with a chequered history. When we put it to him whether he grabbed the land, he said: “The first grabbers of the 52-acre land which belonged to Kenya Prison was Sunshine Primary School, then Amref, then the school (Lang’ata Road Primary) and later Airport Villas. I have documents with me to prove this.”

“It’s very bad for someone who has genuine documents to be called a grabber,” Mr Osero said in reference to a mysterious Mr Singh who has claimed ownership of the disputed Lang’ata Road Primary playground.

“The man pays land rates. He got approval from the city council to erect a perimeter wall. Instead of calling him a grabber, they should have told him that it’s grabbed land and request it back.”

Earlier, media reports about the playground were that Weston Hotel wanted to build a car park on the land. Mr Osero says this has never been the case. “We have two basement parking at the hotel which have never been full.”

Mr Osero is no stranger to land controversies. In 2011, a Nairobi businessman moved in to stop a possible Sh1.5 billion award to Mr Osero and his two business partners (James Cheruiyot and Kenneth Boit) for a 90-acre land in Embakasi belonging to the Department of Defence.

Mr Osero and Torino Enterprises Ltd had claimed ownership of the Kenya Defence Force’s Mine Action Training Centre land. The ruling on the case was delivered by High Court judge Jean Gacheche who ordered the government to surrender the land to Torino or compensate Mr Osero and his associates to the tune of Sh1.5 billion.

Torino had acquired the land for Sh12 million from Renton Company, which had bought the land from the defunct City Council of Nairobi. The 90-acre land was part of 207 acres known as Kayole Estate.

But it is Mr Osero’s friendship with the deputy president that has brought him to the limelight. The relationship dates back to 1992 when the duo were both part of the Youth for Kanu (YK’92) campaign which was led by Cyrus Jirongo, who rose from a little-known land merchant to a Cabinet minister.

While the political fortunes of Mr Ruto soared, Mr Osero’s attempt to enter Parliament in 2013 flopped.

He vied for the Borabu parliamentary seat on an ODM ticket but lost to Wiper party candidate Ben Momanyi.

Mr Osero has always come in handy for Mr Ruto, proof that theirs is a tight-knit relationship. He once posted a Sh6 million surety during a land fraud case touching on the DP several years ago.

And in January last year, Mr Osero was named chairman of Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC). By virtue of this position, he also serves as one of the directors on the Agricultural Development Corporation board.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Eastern and Southern Africa (Baraton) and a Master of Science in entrepreneurship from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He worked as a manager at ADC and appears not to have shied away from appreciating business opportunities that swing his way.

He is a former student of Cardinal Otunga and Meru high schools.

In December last year, he led a group of AFC staff in a dance as they were entertained by Kayamba Fiesta at Weston during an end-of-year party. Photos posted by staff showed their boss doing the full Mugiithi.

The previously little known Mr Osero and his hotel are now part of the public narrative, albeit for the wrong reasons.