Economy

NLC supports Ruto’s hotel in demolition dispute

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Summary

  • In a fresh filing, the NLC stood by its 2019 decision that directed the hotel, owned Deputy President William Ruto, to pay the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) at market rates.
  • The filing comes days after Weston Hotel told the court that KCAA erred in filing a fresh suit in court instead of challenging the 2019 decision of the land commission.
  • The aviation sector regulator has, however, been seeking to repossess the Weston Hotel land in what could see the property demolished.
  • KCB, whose Sh1 billion loan was used to develop the hotel, is among the interested parties and has joined the suit to protect its interests.

The National Land Commission (NLC) has defended its decision to allow Weston Hotel to compensate the aviation sector regulator for the disputed land on which the multi-billion shilling hotel stands instead of having it demolished.

In a fresh filing, the NLC stood by its 2019 decision that directed the hotel, owned Deputy President William Ruto, to pay the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) at market rates.

The filing comes days after Weston Hotel told the court that KCAA erred in filing a fresh suit in court instead of challenging the 2019 decision of the land commission.

The aviation sector regulator has, however, been seeking to repossess the Weston Hotel land in what could see the property demolished.

KCB #ticker:KCB, whose Sh1 billion loan was used to develop the hotel, is among the interested parties and has joined the suit to protect its interests.

The fight over the land comes after the KCAA filed a case at the Environment and Land court.

But the NLC through its director of legal affairs and enforcement Brian Ikol further said the KCAA submitted itself to the commission’s decision and never raised any objection during the proceedings.

He said it was wrong for the KCAA to fail to disclose this fact to the court and misrepresenting facts “with an intent to mislead the court to render an unjust and unfair decision”.

The NLC proposed that the KCAA use the money from Weston to acquire another parcel of land.

According to Mr Ikol, NLC invoked its jurisdiction and admitted the complaint by the KCAA for review of the legality of the grant of the property.

He said the documentation relating to the property, currently registered in the name of Weston Hotel Ltd, and support of their claims was received and scrutinised.

Weston and its associate companies, he said, actively participated in the proceedings before the NLC and were given an opportunity to advance their cases, in strict adherence of the law and a decision rendered thereafter.

Mr Ikol added that the commission acted in strict conformity with the provisions of the Constitution, fair administrative action and the NLC Act.

In the decision, Mr Ikol said, the NLC took into account the KCAA’s omissions and commissions that attributed to the alleged allocation of the land to Priority Ltd and Monene Investments Ltd and subsequent transfer to Weston.

“That for the avoidance of doubt, the remedy sought by the petitioner would mean that the 1st respondent would turn a blind eye to the 2nd respondent’s rights as a bona fide purchaser and further act in violation of section 14 of the NLC Act which allows the 1st respondent to issue consequential orders it deems appropriate in a claim, the Constitution of Kenya and Fair Administration Action,” he said.

He said the NLC adequately addressed the issues brought before it and made recommendations on January 22, 2019.

DISPUTED PUBLIC LAND

In the decision, the NLC recognised and emphasised that the KCAA’s entitlement to the parcel remained unchallenged and noted that Weston and initial owners Priority Limited and Monene Investments Limited, irregularly procured the registration of the land.

But the KCAA challenged the decision, arguing that instead of ordering restitution for the land the commission purported to give effect to the unlawfully acquired title.

The disputed public land had been acquired by the defunct Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) in the early 1990s for the construction of its headquarters.

The agency wants the court to quash the NLC’s decision together with all orders.

KCB said it first provided Weston with a loan of Sh350 million in October 2014 and that the hotel took an additional loan of Sh700 million in July 2015.

KCB said it did a search with the Registrar of Land, who assured them that Weston was the registered proprietor of the land and that the title it held was genuine.

“At the time of registration, the interested party (KCB) did a due diligence and fulfilled all prerequisites to registration of the charge in land as required by law,” the bank said in documents filed in court.

According to KCB, an order declaring the title illegal would prejudice the lender as it would lose the only security it has over the loan, which the hotel is still repaying.