A close ally and financer of Raila Odinga Mombasa-based tycoon Mohammed Jaffer has been ordered by High Court to refund KSh 1.8 billion to State that had been paid by the National Lands Commission (NLC) as compensation for land.
The court ordered Miritini Free Port Ltd, a firm owned by Mohamed Jaffar to refund the funds it received after it emerged the tycoon irregularly received the money in December 2015 during the acquisition of land for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
Justice Eric Ogola ordered NLC to issue a notice to recover money erroneously paid for land that does not belong to an individual or a company.
“It is therefore clear the NLC paid part of the compensation money to a wrong party either knowingly or inadvertently. The amount alleged already paid to interested party is said to be KSh 1,475,486,485 plus a further interruption amount of KSh 360 million,” ruled Justice Ogola.
The court was informed that the land (MN/VI/3912 and MN/VI/3913) was allocated by the government to the petitioners (squatters) in 1996 as compensation after being evicted from Sheikh Sayed Children Centre in Bombolulu.
Later, NLC consolidated the two plots into number into plot number MN/VI/4688 and allocated to Miqdad Enterprises, which sold it to Raila Odinga’s ally-owned firm Miritini Free Port Ltd.
In his ruling, Justice Ogola faulted the National Lands Commission for paying Miritini Free Port Ltd despite knowing there were squatters claiming ownership for the piece of land.
The same plot was again consolidated into number MN/VI/4805, which the petitioners considered a violation of their rights.
The plot was acquired by government and payment made to the Miritini Free Port Ltd desire the concerns that had been raised.
“This court is at a loss at the conduct of the NLC. Having unlawfully, and whether by mistake or otherwise, paid Miritini Free Port compensation money which is rightfully due to the squatters, the NLC has not taken steps to recover the said compensation money unlawfully paid,” said the judge.
In February 2020, Miritini Free Port Ltd petitioned Justice Ogola to review his earlier judgement arguing that it was res judicata, meaning the matter had been previously decided and should not be subject to litigation again between the same parties.
The judge insisted the matter had been settled and that the company was only looking for ways to delay in paying the money.
“I have found that the principle of res judicata is not available to this applicant in this matter. However, in my view, even if that principle was available, it would not be used to shield what appears to be an illegal or unprocedural transaction. Further, it is the view of this court that if the application for review succeeded, it would create unprecedented legal absurdity where the court process is used to deprive a citizen of accrued property rights under the guise of the res judicata principle involving a case where the applicant herein was not a party,” said Ogola.
The High court found NLC culpable in irregular compensation for land that belonged to the squatters. Justice Ogola dismissed the application and ordered the petitioners to pay the costs.