Had the Sh30 billion housing project case dragged on in court for between six months and a year – as similar cases are wont to do – the lawyers involved would have pocketed at least Sh900 million in legal fees.
But the case pitting Mrs Nancy Gatabaki against Suraya Properties Group over the Fourways Housing development project on Kiambu Road was concluded in less than a month, thanks to the role of arbitration and making it a model in the judicial system.
Filed on August 10, 2011, by Mrs Gatabaki to secure her interests in the 200-acre real estate development project, the case was concluded on September 6, 2011.
One of the lawyers involved in the case, Mr Cecil Miller, praised the role of mediation in the ending the dispute.
“Mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism is a preferable method of reducing the backlog of cases in the courts. The Chief Justice, Dr Willy Mutunga, is advocating the same,” said Mr Miller, who represented Suraya.
When the parties came to an agreement and settled the dispute, Mrs Gatabaki and Suraya Properties Group were directed to pay the law firm of Mr Kamau Karori Sh10 million for his role as mediator.
Mr Karori represented I&M Bank, one of the banks that had loaned money to the project.
Underscoring the importance of promoting negotiations as an effective dispute resolution at minimal costs in terms of money and time, lawyer Ashford Muriuki, who represented Mrs Gatabaki, said: “It is the most effective tool, especially for business and commercial disputes.”
Mr Muriuki added that negotiations create certainty and security, which give confidence to the participants involved, and on many occasions, parties are able to retain the relationship.
“We had failed to strike an understanding after seven previous meetings between Mrs Gatabaki and the developers and the two banks,” Mr Muriuki said.
But when the September 6, 2011 settlement was filed and adopted as a court order, Mrs Gatabaki stood to become Sh725 million richer, and the Murayas got the green light to proceed with the development which, when completed, will place them among the largest real estate developers in the country.
“Justice has been done. The dispute is over. At last I got my rightful share,” an upbeat Mrs Gatabaki told the Sunday Nation as she got into her lawyer’s car on the way to lunch at the Serena hotel.
Mediation was the reason Mrs Gatabaki had to return to the hotel. It was there that after 15 hours and 15 minutes of non-stop negotiations, an out-of-court settlement was reached.
In a normal court process it could have taken three to five years to conclude the case. Land matters are known to drag on for even 15 years.
On August 10, Mrs Gatabaki sued Mr Peter Kiarie Muraya and Mrs Sue Wacheke Muraya, the proprietors of Suraya property group, a real estate development company, Equity Bank, I&M Bank and five others for what she termed as intentions to defraud her of her rightful property.
The parties were in and out of court several times until September 2, when Justice Mohammed Warsame gave them 24 hours to negotiate and record a final settlement. On September 6, 2011 at 5.45 a.m, the parties struck a deal.
While Kenyans will remember the Serena as the place where the National Accord to end the 2008 post-election violence was born, Mrs Gatabaki will remember it the place where she became a multi-millionaire.