Zuku founder wins Mombasa data centre contempt case

Kooba Kenya CEO Richard Bell. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG
Kooba Kenya CEO Richard Bell. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

Mombasa County’s Land executive Anthony Njaramba is facing a possible six-month jail term after failing to issue a company owned by Zuku founder Richard Bell approvals for the construction of a Sh3.5 billion data centre.

Justice Eric Ogola has found Mr Njaramba in contempt of court for failing to abide by an order he issued in April that directed Mombasa County to stamp approval requests submitted by Mr Bell’s Kooba Kenya Limited.

Mombasa County had argued that Kooba was yet to comply with some aspects of the orders as well, hence was also in contempt of court.

But the judge held that the orders he issued in April were not conditional, and that Mr Njaramba being the official in charge of the Land department can be jailed for failure to adhere to the court’s directions.

“In this case, Mr Njaramba is said to be an executive member of Land and Housing department. He is a responsible member of that department and can answer to any service. By answering to any service, I mean that Mr Njaramba can say that while he is not the person entitled to be served, he can point out at that officer, and even tag along that officer to court to answer to the service,” the judge ruled.

“In this mater I find that Mr Anthony Njaramba is properly cited for contempt in these proceedings and I accordingly find him guilty of contempt of this court orders of April 13, 2017,” he added.

Mr Bell had initially submitted the documents through another firm — East Africa Capital Partners — but later shifted the entire project to Kooba Kenya.

Mombasa County opposed Kooba’s authority to file the suit, and raised concerns over the firm’s identity. Kooba held that the county government’s claims were vague and aimed at hindering its project.

Mr Justice Ogola ruled that the firm had a right to move to court and ordered it to grant Kooba the necessary approvals.

Kooba had claimed that investors had already invested Sh350 million and that they risked losing out on returns of Sh1.7 billion if the project is to be abandoned.