Checker Oil Products Ltd has started building a Sh850 million state of art shopping mall in Kitui town.
The two storey complex to be known as Wendo Mall will house supermarkets, vehicle showrooms, banking halls, furniture shops, food courts, management offices, service centers, retail shops and a Kamba market place.
According to the company lawyer James Oketch, Wendo Mall to be built on one and half acre land opposite Kitui GK prison along Kitui – Nairobi highway will significantly change the face of Kitui town.
Mr Oketch said the shopping will attract business investments worth billions of shillings to Kitui, in line with Governor Charity Ngilu wealth creation pillar of her manifesto.
The construction works will create hundreds of direct and I direct jobs to Kitui youths.
The construction work kicked off after Checker Oil Products Ltd took control of the land ownership, after Kitui police arraigned in court a squatter occupying the plot John Malinga with charges of malicious damage to private property.
Mr Malinga was arraigned before Kitui Chief Magistrate John Mbungi after he demolished a perimeter fence on the instructions of County Assembly Speaker George Ndotto, who was claiming ownership.
Police launched investigations into an incident in which Mr Malinga and a group of hired goons demolished the perimeter fence to the plot last month when the contractor for Checker Oil Products moved in.
According to Kitui Central DCI officer Nzioka Singi, investigators have authenticated that the plot belongs to Checker Oil Products and not Mr Ndotto, hence the decision to charge Mr Malinga in court.
And in a press statement, Checker Oil Products said it is the registered owners of the land known as Block 1/658 in Kitui Municipality and that they were shocked by the acts of hooliganism instead of following the due process in solving the dispute.
“It is in public domain that illegal encroachment and land grabbing has been rampant in the country. Despite Checker Oil Products being the registered owners, we have been frustrated by squatters and trespassers over the years” read the statement.
“We remain committed to executing our plans of constructing a state of art shopping mall on the property, a project that will attract investors in Kitui town and create jobs” the statement further read.
The one acre prime plot is situated along Kitui – Nairobi highway, opposite the Kitui GK Prison.
The County Speaker claimed he was allocated the plot in 1989 by the late President Daniel Moi when he served as cabinet minister in Kanu government but declined to provide any supporting documents.
“I have been a cabinet minister in this country and I was given this land by the president himself during one of his tours in Kitui, so any other action to the contrary is illegal and will be challenged” Mr Ndotto charged.
On the other hand, Mr Oketch provided documents including title deed and Ministry of Lands records showing whereas Mr Ndotto was allocated the plot vide Allotment letter dated June 22, 1989, the former minister neither accepted the offer nor paid the stand premium or requisite fees for ten years.
This prompted the Commissioner of Lands to withdraw the Allotment for lack of acceptance, failure to pay land rates and meet other statutory conditions of allotment.
According to a six page status report by the Ministry of Lands dated December 31st, 2019, Mr Ndotto was allocated the land upon verbal instructions by the President Moi, but his allotment letter was later withdrawn.
The new plot owners – Checker Oil Products accepted the allotment and paid the requisite fees vide letter dated August 8th, 2002, which were receipted on August 13, 2002.
“On January 21, 1998, Checker Oil Products applied for the plot which had remained undeveloped for years and our request was approved on June 25th, 1998. This allotment cancelled the Letter of Allotment earlier issued to George Ndotto, vide allotment Ref No. 35362/VI/213”, read the report, obtained by Facing East.
The report signed by P N. Muriithi, Deputy Chief Land Registrar further states that a survey was done and a sealed Registry Index Map was signed by the Director of Survey on June 20th, 2006, paving way for a certificate of lease to be issued by Kitui Land Registrar to Checker Oil Products.
“Other than President Moi’s alleged verbal instruction, there are no records at the Land Ministry to support Mr George Ndotto ownership to the plot and he does not possess a certificate of lease for the land and is therefore not the legal owner. He is squatting on the land without any title deed to support his ownership” the Ministry’s report concludes.
After the findings arrived following years of hearing the dispute, Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney has directed Kitui County Land Registrar to expunge any other Parcel Files from the Land Registry records.