Miano Kaminja, 70, still has hopes that another windfall will come his way and lift him from his misery.
In February 2013, he received a Sh7 million payout after the Government acquired his two-and-a-half acre land for construction of a dam. “When I get the Sh64 million I will buy a big car and build a big hotel,” Mr Kaminja told The Standard, reminiscing about the good days three years ago when money was none of his problems. Mr Kaminja was among about 600 families in Rukenya village, Kirinyaga County, who shared Sh5 billion from the Government to pave way for the Sh19 billion Rukenya Irrigation Dam.
The compensation was based on size of land and development and Kaminja was among those who received the least amount as his land did not have any substantial development. It is said that money is the root of all evil. This rings true for Kaminja and his family. The payout destroyed his family; he is reported to have chased away his wife and two sons who now live in Mwea.
The elderly man then went on to splash his money in just three months. With nowhere to go, a relative has accommodated him in his Karia village home.
When he received his windfall, Kaminja lived the life of the millionaire that he was. He moved to a posh hotel in Kerugoya town and rented a room at Sh3,000 a day. He also bought himself a car which he could not even drive, and ensured that it was assigned the parking slot meant for the hotel owner. But when he ran out of cash — part of it was looted by friends who came out of the blue — tragedy struck. The man who had never driven a vehicle in his lifetime is reported to have rushed to the parking bay and ignited his car, accelerated to full throttle and crashed it into a concrete wall, sustaining serious injuries and wrecking the vehicle.
He was rushed to a nearby private hospital which discharged him even before he recovered fully after realising that he could not afford to foot the medical bill. Today, the former millionaire keeps hopping from relative to relative seeking temporary overnight accommodation at Karia village, hoping that one day day he will become a millionaire again. He still claims the National Irrigation Board owes him a staggering Sh64 million for the land. This is because some con artists, on learning that he had money, lied to him that they were land valuers and would ensure that he was paid the money as his Sh7 million compensation was “too low”.
Armed with the fake valuation documents, Kaminja consoles himself that one day he will receive a huge compensation, though he has been challenged to produce the valuation formula used to arrive at the soaring figures without avail.
His is an experience that has befallen scores who after receiving unexpected windfall have plunged into reckless lifestyles that end in misery and tears. Some of the beneficiaries of the dam acquisition payout married new wives, bought cars they could not drive, dressed flashily and had their lifestyles changed. The billions of shillings attracted prostitutes and con men who used all their tricks to milk the money out of the beneficiaries due to their high levels of illiteracy.
Some beneficiaries were reported to have eloped with people’s wives to Mombasa and have never come back.
Bar and lodging owners in Kianyaga, Kutus, Kerugoya, Embu and Murang’a got a big share of the billions since some beneficiaries eventually ended up in these joints.
“They would come to my bar in groups of two or three, order all patrons out and ask me to count the bills incurred by those ordered out, then ask me to close the premises and ensure it was all theirs, said Nancy Muthoni, a bar attendant in Kutus town. Ms Muthoni said she has never in her life seen such lavish spending. Others are said to have committed suicide or run mad after sinking back into abject poverty. The cars they bought are either grounded with major mechanical problems or were disposed of at throw-away prices to enable their owners make ends meet while their families got disintegrated.