Lawyer Njoroge Rigeru for Del monte Kenya Limited arguing an application challenging the decision by Kiambu and Murang’a county government declining to extend their land leases for the land the company have been carrying pineapple farming in the two counties on Friday 18 September,2015.
Del monte Kenya Limited now wants their suit against Muranga County government declining to extend their leases on the pineapple plantation farm heard by a three judge bench.
They told the high court through the company’s Lawyer Njoroge Rigeru, their case raises constitutional issues that need to be heard by a judge of uneven number.
This after Muranga County government filed a preliminary objection arguing the constitutional court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter, since it’s a matter dealing with land issues.
“This is a unique case and it has to set precedence for future “said Mr Mereka.
Mr Rigeru opposed to Muranga county Government preliminary objection saying the issues raised on the petition are human rights violation that needs to be addressed by a constitutional court not the land and environmental court.
“If a private land is required for public use the constitution is very clear about that.” said Mr Rigeru.
Del monte Kenya Limited last week sued the county government of Murang’a for declining to extend their leases on the pineapple plantation farm.
Del monte engages in the business of growing premium quality foods, fresh and processed pineapples and fruit juice beverages.
It is Kenya’s largest exporter of the above named products and is also a subsidiary of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc, a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a listed value of about 2 billion US Dollars.
The company in its court documents says on October 1 2012, it made the requisite applications for extension of the terms of various leases to the relevant local authority in the county of Murang’a and Kiambu where the respective parcels of land are situated.
It says despite observing and complying with the statutory procedure, the two county governments have failed to issue the letters of ‘no objection’ for extension of the leasehold terms.
Instead, the county government of Murang’a as a pre-condition for issuing the letter of no objection ‘requested’ Del monte to demarcate and allocate to them at least 1500 acres along the Thika Kenol Highway for “public use”.
Delmonte says the ‘request’ is not only unconstitutional but is also blatantly illegal as the County Government of Murang’a (CGM) has no basis to make such demands on them.
Through Lawyer Njoroge Rigeru, Del monte says the CGM through its officials has threatened its management severally to accede to the illegal and unconstitutional demands made by the said officials otherwise their leases will not be renewed.
“Failure to consider our application for extension of the terms of the leases is unreasonable, unfair and highly inefficient given the cyclical nature of our business, spanning over a period of three and a half years and therefore requiring advance planning,” it says.
It is alleged that the Senator of Murang’a County requested petitioner to donate 200 acres of land for private investors to put up a hospital and university.
Delmonte’s Managing Director Stergios gkaliamoustsas says in another meeting in the presence of the Governor, Senator and Speaker of county government of Murang’a at Sankara Hotel, he was informed that he should cede for the exchange of over and above 3000 acres of land for public use and if he did not agree to the request their letter of ‘No objection’ would not be released.
He says even when he applied afresh for the renewal and extension of the respective leases, CGM has delayed and frustrated the process by imposing unreasonable and unconstitutional demands on me.
The company now seeks to have the court issue an order restraining the CGM from demanding that the petitioner surrenders any part of its land or from imposing any unlawful demands as a pre-condition for issuance of letters of no objection for the extension of the leasehold terms in respect to nine parcels of land.
Delmonte says in 2014, it paid in excess of Shs 528 million as taxes to the Kenyan exchequer. The company has also invested in 8 nursery schools, 3 day care centers as well as 3 primary schools at the villages located within the farm.
It says in total, the pineapple farming cycle takes an average of three and a half years from planting of the first crop to uprooting of the crop and a fallow period before the next crop is planted.
It takes the fruits 18 to 20 months to mature after planting. After the first harvest, the plant produces another fruit 16 to 18 months later. Thereafter the plant is uprooted and the land left fallow for a period of 3 to 6 months. This is done in order to break the pest cycle.
Justice Oguto said he will deliver the ruling on Thursday next week on whether the constitutional court has a jurisdiction to hear the matter or not.