NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 15 – The demolition of TAJ Mall along Outer Ring Road got underway on Saturday as the period given to the owner to flatten the building on a road reserve lapsed.
Rameshchandra Govind Gorasia, the owner of the building also known as the AirGate Centre had on August 16 dared the authorities to level the building insisting that he had followed the due process in acquiring the parcel of land on which TAJ Mall is built.
According to Gorasia, he had lost up to Sh3 billion in rental income since the opening of the mall in August 2011.
“This building does not affect the road. This is economic crime and people doing this must be charged with economic crimes because I’ll go to the court and seek my claim,” he said at the time saying he had faced constant intimidation since the opening of the Sh5.5 billion building over impending demolition.
Authorities had given Gorasia until August 31 to vacate and demolish the building at his own cost.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has on numerous occasions in the recent past said that the government will crack the whip on rogue land officials who approve irregular plans on riparian and road reserves.
“In many instances developers tell us they were given permits but those permits were given illegally. I want to assure you that any government official who participated in the issuance of irregular permits will be prosecuted,” he said on August 9 during the official opening of the Prism Towers along Third Ngong Avenue in Nairobi,
But even as bulldozers made their way into the mall early Saturday, AirGate management stood its ground and insisted the due process was followed in acquiring the now controversial parcel on land – L.R. NO. 209/13938.
“We didn’t know they were coming to demolish the building this morning until last evening. We only had a supermarket and a club occupying the building, other tenants had moved out,” Amos Mogire, Manager at AirGate Centre told Capital FM News.
Among tenants that had left the building late August was Mater Misericordiae Hospital, who had a clinic on the second floor of the building.
Pipeline Member of County Assembly Stephen Gikonyo told Capital FM News that the demolition will provide space for the widening of a service lane.
“The service lane we have at the moment is not wide enough and that is because of this building. Motorists have to go around all the way to General Motors on Mombasa Road for them to make a turn,” he said.
L.R. NO. 209/13938 title was revoked through a gazette notice dated January 22, 2016, following an advisory issued by the National Land Commission (NLC) on September 30, 2015.
According to NLC, L.R. NO. 209/13938 had been acquired by the government in 1960 for the construction of the Outer Ring Road and an acquisition plan gazetted on April 30, 1971.
NLC noted in its September 2015 advisory for the revocation of L.R. NO. 209/13938 that the demarcation and alienation for a road reserve was carried out in 1966 with the parcel to be used for the road set apart as L.R. NO. 7075/13/1 under a survey plan F/R NO. 107/10.
Deed plan NO. 83847 was subsequently issued.
NLC stated that L.R. NO. 7075/13/1 was amalgamated with another parcel registered as L.R. NO. 7075/24 resulting to L.R. NO. 209/13938 currently occupied by TAJ Mall.
The amalgamation was said to have been done vide plan F/R 286/163 contrary to the acquisition plan of the said land and an original survey F/R NO. 107/10.
NLC had stated in its September 2015 correspondence to the Chief Land Registrar that the Director of Surveys through a latter in July 2012 had confirmed that the land on which TAJ Mall was constructed was indeed a road reserve.
Following the revocation of the land, NLC cancelled the amalgamation of L.R. NO. 7075/13/1 and L.R. NO. 7075/24 to form L.R. NO. 209/13938.
As a result TAJ Mall was to retain L.R. NO. 7075/24 whereas L.R. NO. 7075/13/1 was returned to the custody of the Nairobi City County government for road expansion as had been intended.