The fight for control of a private company in Nyeri, with properties valued at more than Sh60 million, has taken an ugly turn after a court sentenced its 14 tenants to a one-month civil jail over contempt.
The occupants of houses owned by United Social Club were sentenced by Justice Mary Oundo of the Environment and Lands Court for failing to deposit their rent to court as directed on March 23, 2017. Justice Oundo alternatively condemned them to pay a fine of Sh10,000 each.
In the order issued by suspended judge Lucy Waithaka, the court found a need to preserve the rent collected from the suit property (Nyeri/Municipality/Block 111/99) pending the hearing and determination of the dispute on property ownership.
The court directed that every tenant occupying the suit property deposits their rent in court, effective from March 23, 2017.
The tenants were cited in contempt following an application by one faction of the two management teams led by Erastus Kiama Gichuki, Nancy Mugure and Florence Wanjiru.
In the application, the court heard that the renters had defaulted to pay the rent in court amounting to Sh1 million.
Through a tabulation of how the tenants had been paying rent, from the record of the court, the three managers had discovered that as at March 2019, they had only paid Sh996,000.
This was in comparison to what they were expected to have been paid, which was Sh2 million, thereby defaulting with a sum of Sh1 million.
Led by Mr Kiama, the splinter team told the court that the tenants had taken advantage of the lapse, there being no checks and balances to ensure the court orders were being complied with.
The tenants in response did not controvert the contempt issues raised by the managers neither did they state that the tabulation was wrong, fictitious or exaggerated.
They just sought for a different person to be appointed to manage the suit premises, a plea which the judge said should have sought through a formal application.
The other management team, led by Mr Gerald Kibocha Wambugu, Daniel Gatuguta and Benson Ndung’u, said the company’s properties are now registered in the name of Umplosh Company Limited illegally.
Although it could be true that some default was occurring, they said if there were rent arrears they could be recovered in a different forum once ownership of the property was determined.
“If there were persons who were to blame for the delay in the hearing of the suit, it was Mr Kiama’s team and some of the interested parties (tenants),” said Mr Kibocha’s group in court.
The two factions have been fighting over ownership and proceeds of the club. The fight begun after Mr Kaima’s team converted the ownership and property of the club to Umplosh.
The dispute on management of the property forced the court to direct that its proceeds be deposited in the court’s bank account, pending determination of the case.
“Registration to Umplosh Company was illegal and fraudulent and our search confirmed the company directors are the respondents (Mr Gichuki, Ms Mugure and Ms Marine).
“After registration Mr Gichuki identified himself as the CEO of the company, which has been collecting rent from tenants. The club members are not aware of what happens with their proceeds,” stated Mr Kibocha in the court papers.
But in response, Mr Gichuki denied the allegations, saying Mr Kibocha and his team are not members of the club.
The club was formed in 1960s for sports activities and hosting local and national tournaments and indoor games. But it now operates business enterprises like hotels, millers, carwash, workshops and church while the main hall is hired by self-help groups.
He further dismissed assertions that the transfer and change of name was fraudulent saying it was sanctioned by all the registered members of the Club.
The club was formed in 1960s for sports activities and hosting local and national tournaments and festival indoor sports games.
But it no longer runs social club and operates business enterprises like hotels, millers, carwash, workshops and church while the main hall is hired by self-help groups.