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Demolitions uncover colourful life of reclusive billionaire

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By JOHN KAMAU
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When he stormed the 20-acre piece of land in Nairobi’s Kayole with bulldozers, city billionaire Mike Maina brought attention to himself.

That was after he failed to force Nairobi Water Company to remove all piping and sewer lines from the property through a court order (ELC suit 1127 of 2016).

By using unorthodox means, Mr Maina had hoped that without water and sewer system the properties developed on the Kayole land would be rendered useless.

Although little-known, Mr Maina was a Moi-era baron and his signature project is Marble Arch Hotel, a stone’s throwaway from Nairobi Fire Station — and which, according to parliamentary record, “grabbed” a public toilet to build a parking bay next to the parking lot once owned by the Kenya Taxi Cabs Association.

He was also a key player in the attempted grabbing of Karura Forest, where he was to build a mall similar to Sarit Centre on behalf of President Daniel arap Moi and power broker Hosea Kiplagat.

By then, Mr Maina was the proprietor of Pelican Engineering Construction Company and — as he would later say in court pleadings — he, and Nairobi lawyer Chege Kirundi, incorporated a company known as Kitusuru Limited to obtain allocation of the Karura Forest whereby approximately 45.5. acres was demarcated for his use.

The tycoon had instructed Mr Kirundi to act as his advocate and co-director by incorporating the new company.

Mr Maina was to hold the directorship on behalf of Mr Kiplagat, while Mr Kirundi was to hold the directorship in trust for Mr Maina.

It is not clear why he wanted President Moi served in the suit filed by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) which had bought the contentious allocation for Sh295.5 million.

The prime land was between Old Muthaiga and the Kitusuru Estate in Nairobi.

Although this was forest land, Kitusuru Limited obtained a title from the Commissioner of Lands on April 1, 1995 and Mr Kirundi approached NSSF to purchase the land, which it did. After that, Kitusuru Limited was dissolved.

It was only after Mwai Kibaki won the presidential election that the Forest Department got the courage to write to the NSSF board of trustees in 2003.

The pensions fund was told it did not own the land (LR 2009/12274) as it had been excised from a gazetted Forest Reserve by a Proclamation No. 44 of 1932.

The court heard that this chunk was declared a central forest under Legal Notice 174 of 30th May 1964.

Thus, according to the Forest Act Cap. 385, only the Minister in charge of government forests was permitted to alter the boundary — which was not done.

It was after NSSF sued him together with Mr Kirundi that Mr Maina sought to bring in President Moi and Mr Kiplagat.

Back to the City, Parliament had been told that Mr Maina’s Marble Arch Hotel had grabbed a council toilet — an issue that was revisited this week when Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko threatened, albeit in an uncouth way, to reclaim the toilet land after Mr Maina destroyed several houses built on his land in Kayole.

But that was not the first time that Marble Arch establishment had been admonished.

Another instance was when he was accused of destroying the Lagos Road public toilet — previously used by upcountry travellers since it was adjacent to the main offices of the now defunct Akamba Public Road Services Limited — one of Kenya’s most enduring long-distance passenger and courier service providers.

That Mr Maina’s Marble Arch got away with it after grabbing one of the three public toilets that disappeared during the Kanu era was an indicator of his might then.

Even after the matter was raised in Parliament in August 2005, all what the government said was that the Ministry of Local Government “has issued firm instructions to the Nairobi City Council (NCC) to repossess the toilets as per the recommendations of the Ndung’u Commission about grabbed land.”

But the status quo has remained — until the Nairobi governor sent his bulldozers — which is more of a tit-for-tat over the Kayole saga.

Mr Maina is a litigious man.

For the last 10 years, he has been battling in courts to get back the Kayole land that he claims was occupied illegally.

How he got this land is not clear but what we know is that in 1988 he was conned out of Sh17.4 million at View Park Towers along Uhuru Highway in Nairobi by a Mr Gabriel Njoroge Mbuthia who purported to sell plot No LR 23917 in Kayole, which belonged to the City Council.

Mr Mbuthia had posed as the son of Cabinet Minister JJ Kamotho.

He had been introduced to the tycoon as Mr Gabriel Kamotho by a cousin, NG Macharia.

It was the prosecution’s case that Mr Mbuthia, who was found guilty and jailed for two-and-a-half years, lawyer Paul Chapai Oduso and two civil servants — Mr Peter Gateru Macharia and Mr Marclus Njiru Nguru — obtained the money pretending they could sell land in Kayole.

Mr Maina told the court that he then discovered that Mr Mbuthia was not the owner of the plot as it belonged to the council.

By then, Mr Mbuthia had received the money and escaped to Uganda.

But the occupants of this piece of land, LR 23917, allege that it was given to them by President Moi through the Embakasi Kanu office during the days when MP David Mwenje was notorious for allocating both private and public land to his supporters “and with authority of (then) City Council.”

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How Mr Maina’s Muthithi Investment got this land was played out in court when it heard HCC No. 457 of 1999.

It emerged that after the tycoon was conned out of Sh17 million, he later started a purchase process of the same land from a company known as Gamex Shelter Hunters Ltd.

But before the deal could be concluded, the Nairobi City Council filed a suit at the High Court against the Commissioner of Lands, Muthithi Investments and Gamex Shelter Hunters Limited arguing that LR 23917 belonged to the public.

In 1999, when this was happening, Nairobi was then under Town Clerk Zipporah Wandera, Kuria wa Gathoni as director of planning, and a generally ceremonial mayor, Sammy Mbugua.

By then, Joseph Kamotho was the Minister for Local Government. The less said about them, the better.

What we know today is that after City Hall lodged a case against Mr Maina’s Muthithi Investment, it did an about-turn during the case and a consent order was registered between all the parties which agreed that Muthithi Investment was the owner of the property.

Why City Hall decided not to pursue its claim is not known but the consent order was issued by the High Court on February 8, 2000 — thus leaving the multi-billion-shilling property to the Murang’a-born tycoon.

This consent order was followed by a court order dated July 8, 2000 in which Muthithi Investment was declared the owner of the land.

But there was one problem: Local MP David Mwenje had already started allocating part of the land to some Kanu youth wingers, while others claimed that they were allocated the land by President Moi.

Mr Maina had tried to remove these occupants through the courts in Civil Case 498 of 2004, but they staged a counter argument that he had also received the land through fraud.

But when their lawyer termed the court order that gave Mr Maina the land as “suspect”, the phrase seemed to irk Justice Murugi Mugo who was hearing the case.

She said: “With respect I find Counsel’s comment about this court’s order rather unbecoming as it suggests fraudulent dealings on the part of the court. Counsel knows that the appropriate course to take where one is dissatisfied with an order of the court is to move the court to either set the judgment aside in a review application or on appeal,” Justice Mugo said.

“That the respondents may not have been parties in HCCC No. 457 of 1999 does not give them any right to adopt an abusive attitude towards the court in regard to its orders.”

Interestingly, Justice Mugo was removed from the judiciary after the 2013 vetting after she was accused of being rude and uncourteous to lawyers and litigants. The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board chaired by Sharad Rao found her unsuitable to be a judge.

Back to Kayole, Justice Mugo had noted that the property was, as per court records, owned by Muthithi Investments and that all those who had “invaded” the land had no right to dismiss a court order vesting ownership as “phoney and/or irregularly obtained” when the same remains unchallenged.

But their argument that they were not party to the original suit which gave Mr Maina the land did not impress the court.

Justice Mugo said the defence was “a sham and incapable of cure by amendment or otherwise.”

With that, Muthithi Investment got an order to have the occupants removed by force — which was done this week much to the chagrin of many, including the governor.

Before that, Mr Maina had tried to force the occupants out by suing the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company and asking the court to order the firm to remove its pipelines from his property since the county government had not sought his consent.

Nairobi Water argued that it had entered legally binding contracts with other customers and that it would be a breach of the agreement and contrary to its legal mandate of issuing water and sewerage services.

Justice K. Bor argued that giving such an order would affect many other consumers who were not enjoined in the suit.

With that, Mr Maina was left to pursue the eviction order.

A year ago, this reclusive man was in the news again after he was awarded Sh711 million to compensate him after his mansion was demolished in Nairobi’s upmarket Spring Valley neighbourhood to pave way for a link road between Waiyaki Way and Red Hill Road.

Although the land had been acquired through compulsory acquisition in 1976, government officials said they did not know how Mr Maina was issued with a title deed.

While the government had urged the court to declare that the property was acquired for road purpose and that Mr Maina’s title was irregular, he argued that he had a valid title issued by the Commissioner of Lands.

Mr Maina successfully defended the acquisition of the land, saying the government should have followed due process to get it back.

Mr Maina is a veteran of land deals — but how he will handle his current war of words with Governor Sonko remains to be seen.

Already, the county government has marked his hotel as “illegal property”.

Merry Christmas to all my fans and thank you for all your feedback.

The writer is the Editor, Investigations and Special Projects



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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