The family of the late police commissioner Ben Gethi has won a case involving a 303 acre piece of land in Nyandarua after the Environment and Lands Court in Nyahururu ruled in their favour.
The families of Mr Gethi, who served as the second post-independence police commissioner from 1978 to 1982, Ndurere Muhunyu and Benjamin Ithinyai have been involved in a 48-year feud over the piece of land located at Murichu village in Ndaragwa constituency, Nyandarua County.
The three families have been claiming that the land was gifted to their fathers by Mr Harry Wallis, a colonial farmer.
The case was filed early this year by Mr David Kimengere, Mr David Gitonga, Mr Ngotho Ndurere and Mr Muthami Ndurere on behalf of Mr Muhunyu and Mr Ithinyai (both deceased) against Ms Angela Wairimu (Gethi’s widow) and her company, Murua Limited.
On Tuesday, Lady Justice Mary Oundo dismissed the case and ordered the applicants to pay Sh100,000 for trespass.
The applicants have been accusing the Gethi family of fraudulently acquiring the ownership documents of the piece of land. But the defendants have been maintaining that they have genuine papers for the property.
Documents that were filed before the Nyahururu Environment and Land Court, indicate that the land No: LR 7381 (LR 6406) Laikipia was transferred to the plaintiffs parents in a conveyance dated October 23, 1964.
The land is currently registered under Murua Limited — a company whose directors are Ms Wairimu, the former police chief’s widow, and his son Mr Peter Nderitu Gethi.
Through court documents, the plaintiffs argued that their fathers (Muhunyu and Ithinyai) who used to work as farmhands for Mr Wallis were gifted the expansive land by the white settler and its ownership transferred to them on November 7, 1964.
Through lawyer Wachira Wamahiu, the plaintiffs indicated that the said conveyance of the land was entered in the register of lands by the Chief Lands Registrar.
The plaintiffs claim the land was later transferred to Gethi family in 1971 in unclear circumstances before they were evicted from the land.
But in defense, the Gethi’s family tabled documents in court indicating that the property was transferred from Wallis to Ben Meja Gethi in 1971, as a ‘gift’.
While dismissing the application Lady Justice Oundo, noted that applicants would have filed the application before the elapsing of 12 years after they were evicted from the land.
“The plaintiffs having been evicted from the land in 1971 by the defendant and their having claim ownership of the same they had 12 years to claim the recovery of the land but they didn’t do the same. There are also no documents to show that they had reported the alleged crime of fraudulent transfer of the title from their fathers to the respondent family,” said the Judge.
Justice Oundo also noted that the plaintiffs had claimed that their parents had lease certificate of 999 years but documents presented before the court had indicated that they had a lease certificate of five years.
“The documents adduced in court as exhibit one by the plaintiffs indicates that their parents had a leasehold of five years at a yearly pay of Sh20 and there are no other documents to show that the leasehold was renewed after the five years,” she added.
While testing before the court on April 10, 2019, Mr Ngotho Ndurere told the court that after taking over as the police commissioner the late Gethi used his powers to eject them from the land in 1971 without a court order and also managed to abuse the office of Commissioner of Lands for irregular registration of the land under his name.
He said that the office of the Commissioner of Lands denied them access to information on records relating to the land, from 1971 until 2014, when they were given the search copy.
“We moved into the land in August 2018 following a directive from the chief lands registrar Mr Charles Ng’etich that we legally own the land No 7381 (IR 6406) Laikipia” Mr Ngotho told the court on April 10, 2019.
However, in defence Mr Peter Nderitu Gethi, a son of the late police commissioner and director of Murua limited, told the court that they legally own the piece of land and faulted the two families for reportedly invading their land and start erecting semi-permanent structures.
Mr Nderitu had also attached a copy of a letter dated August 15, 2018, from the Chief Land Registrar, Charles Ngetich, addressed to Kamau Kuria & Company Advocates (for the squatters) indicating that Murua Limited has a genuine title deed for the land. The title deed, according to the Chief Registrar was registered on July 14, 2010.
Last year police in Nyandarua North directed the three families involved in the dispute not to cultivate the land until the dispute is resolved.
The case had initially been taken to the National Land Commission (NLC) and the Land ministry, but they both failed to resolve it.
Attempts by the Nyandarua County Land Management Board to resolve the dispute failed and, in a report dated October 22, 2015, it referred the matter to court.
The two families through their lawyer Wachira Wamahiu have since vowed to appeal the court’s decision.