The multi-agency team handling Nairobi’s regeneration started demolishing Ukay Centre in Westlands early on Friday morning, about a day after its owners went to court to prevent the destruction.
CBD Chief Julius Wanjau, who is in charge of the operation, said they were not served with the court order that Ukay owners claim to have obtained.
National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) bulldozers descended on the building from about 5.30 am.
According to Ukay management, the building is not on a river but sits 10 metres from a canalised stream.
The building manager, Veeral Shah, said they adhered to all requirements when putting it up. Owners of the centre earlier asked the High Court to stop the destruction of the property worth 900 million shillings.
On Thursday, Justice Wilfrida Okwany declined to issue orders stopping the exercise but certified the application against it as urgent and said it should be heard by the vacation judge next week.
Kental Enterprises Limited, through lawyer Greg Karungo, said Nairobi and state agencies approved the construction of the mall in 1984 on the basis of the building plans they submitted.
This is the third major demolition in days as the government moves to reclaim riparian lands. Ukay Centre has been at the centre of controversy for being on a wetland for years.
While the government seeks to protect the environment, owners of the 1 billion shillings building argued that about 300 people risked losing employment.
Every rainy season, Ukay Centre hit the headlines for flooding. Southend, another multi-million shilling mall at the Lang’ata Road-Mbagathi Way roundabout, was demolished on Wednesday. Earlier, Java restaurant and Shell Petrol Station in Kileleshwa were demolished.
Despite resistance, President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to sustain the crackdown that will see more than a thousand buildings, erected on wetlands demolished.
Meanwhile, former NACADA chairman John Mututho has lashed out at NEMA over the ongoing demolition of structures in parts of Nairobi.
Mututho said that the management of the authority was squarely to blame for the ongoing losses which have seen traders incur losses running into billions of shillings.
“I do not have a structure on riparian land but it is very unfair for NEMA to start demolishing structures whose officers licensed in the first place,” he said.
Addressing the press in Naivasha, Mututho said that the demolition had sent shivers to investors who were keen to start businesses in the country.
“The same authority that licensed the investors to put the structures is the same one moving in to demolish them and this does not make sense,” he said.
Mututho added that mechanical drainages could be constructed under the affected buildings so as to save jobs and lifetime savings.
“The ongoing exercise will see tens of people lose their jobs while many others will be rendered paupers as all their investment have been brought down by poor decisions,” he said.
He revisited the demolition of houses by the Coalition government in 2009 to pave way for a major road which to date had not been carried out.
“We saw Raila when he was the PM lead an operation to demolish houses in parts of Nairobi and over ten years down the line nothing has been carried out,” he said.