A judge has allowed the police to pursue an appeal as they fight to retain over 500 housing units near Wilson Airport in Nairobi worth over Sh2 billion.
A group calling itself Wilson Mutumba Women Group and Organisation had laid claim to the houses where police officers have been living for more than a decade.
Justice John Nyamu, since retired, ruled in favour of the group in 2008 after the then Commissioner of Police failed to file an opposition to the case.
The government later moved to the Court of Appeal seeking to reverse the decision, but since then, there has been confusion resulting in the long delay.
While granting the government permission to file the appeal out of time, Justice Martha Koome said the case raises weighty issues because on one hand, the group claims to have been allocated the parcel in South C, whereas the police maintain it is public land.
The government said the 595 maisonettes were built for members of the security agencies, who are currently occupying them.
“For the foresaid reasons, I am persuaded the seriousness of the issues raised in the appeal far more outweigh the prejudice which can also be compensated with an award of costs of this application which I award to the respondents who opposed this application,” Justice Koome said.
Wilson Mutumba Women Group and Organisation filed the case in 2005, saying that it was allocated the land, paid the required fees and was issued with a lease on December 18, 1990.
The group said it was sponsored by an Irish organisation to put up some 300 residential houses In 1991.
But the project was abandoned due to a disagreement between the donor and the government.
The group members later allocated themselves the incomplete houses but in May, 2005, the Officer Commanding Langata Police Station evicted them and arrested some of the members who were charged with various criminal offences. Two officials of the group— Joseph Mburu and Isaac Mburu— were charged with 11 offences, including making false documents, swearing false affidavits and conspiracy to defraud the police service.
But the two claimed the criminal cases were meant to intimidate them to abandon their legal battle to reclaim the land. They were acquitted in June last year.
Justice Nyamu had granted them the orders seeking to evict the police officers from the houses but the Attorney-General rushed to court and obtained orders stopping the eviction, pending the appeal. But for eight years, the case was never prosecuted.
Justice Koome castigated the AG’s office for what she termed lethargy in pursuing the appeal.
“The office of the Attorney-General is a government law firm like any other and the AG being the titular head of the Bar should set high standards of professionalism even to be emulated by other law firms. The State counsel from the AG’s office have conducted this matter most slovenly,” she said.
But the judge said the lethargy had not lessened the weight of the matters raised, which are of immense public interest and which in her view may never go away unless the underlying or the substantive issues of ownership of the suit land is properly addressed and adjudicated.
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