|Written by:||Meshack Masibo|
What is the first thought that comes in your mind when you hear the word sacco? Probably if you are like me, it conjures up memories of financially intuitive persons coming together as a block in order to put their savings together and to be able to grow financially. It is a train of thought that largely leads one to a positive mindset as one evaluates the his/her potential to grow financially independent and to invest widely. Probably those were the same thoughts that shareholders of Ekeza Sacco first had when they heard about the sacco. However, as the years have turned so, must their thoughts have turned also?
In about two weeks, the auctioneer’s hammer will fall on eight properties owned by Gakuyo Real Estate, the parent company of the wobbling Ekeza Savings and Credit Cooperative Society. It will be marking the bursting of a bubble created by Kiambu preacher turned politician David Kariuki Ngare, popularly known as Gakuyo, the general overseer of Calvary Chosen Centre, Thika. This is after the televangelist “Dr” David Kariuki Ngare, alias Gakuyo recently surrendered to the police.
Gakuyo, in the company of his lawyer Danstan Omari and six other Ekeza Sacco officials, appeared at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters. Reports indicated that they were questioned for about half an hour by officers including Head of Serious Crimes Unit Joseph Kariuki. Gakuyo was being sought over the loss of Ksh.1billion from Ekeza Sacco after a directive from Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.
Gakuyo is the founder of Ekeza Sacco which has been dogged with controversy after it emerged that members funds were embezzled. The money was apparently transferred to Gakuyo’s personal account. “…rogue officials mismanaging funds in the co-operative movement will be prosecuted after the conclusion of investigations,” said Matiang’i. Last year, the Government revoked the Sacco’s license following complaints that Ekeza was sharing office space and bank accounts with Gakuyo Real Estate Company.
At one point, Gakuyo attempted to sell his hotels and land tied to the real estate company but was stopped after an application from the Commissioner of Cooperatives. He wanted to sell Lillies Hotel in Juja, Salama House and Swift Breeze Hardware on Garissa Road, a quarry in Murang’a County as well as 250 acres of land in Machakos County. Mr Ngare, through a notice in local dailies of January 24 put up for sale Lillies Hotel in Juja, Salama House and Swift Breeze Hardware on Garissa Road, Thika, a quarry in Murang’a and 250 acres of land in Murang’a and Machakos counties. The sale is intended to ward off more than 53,000 members seeking a total refund of Sh2 billion.
The Ekeza members say they deposited their money to the sacco, hoping to get loans to enable them buy houses. Ekeza Sacco was registered four years ago, but its licence was revoked in 2018. Most of its members are from Thika in Kiambu County although it has 26 branches across the country. The sale by Leakey’s Auctioneers will be on Lunga Lunga Road, Industrial Area on February 14. It will come only a week before Co-operatives Principal Secretary Susan Mochache convenes a special general meeting where an audit on how the society’s money may have been misused will be made public.
The liquidation was authorised by Commissioner of Co-operatives Mary Mungai after it emerged that the sacco had no capacity to meet its obligations to members. The commissioner froze the sacco’s accounts last year but some members want the business reopened so that they can access their money. “We have not paid our debts for months due to the closure of the accounts. The government should come to our aid as it streamlines the issue,” Mary Wambui, an Ekeza Sacco member told local news daily. Ironically, Mr Ngare is also playing victim by asking members to settle their loans to help boost the amount to be realised from the auction. “The sacco has given members substantial loans that should be paid to help those who saved access their funds. Let us be patient as we get close to February 21 when the report on the funds is made public,” he said, adding that no members would lose their money.
When Mr Gakuyo, who has also been battling claims of faking his academic papers, launched his bid for Kiambu governor seat in 2016, he integrated his political messages with the sacco’s marketing campaigns. Mr Gakuyo later dropped his bid in favour of the eventual winner Ferdinand Waititu. Swept by a wave of resentment towards the then Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, the dual messaging saw thousands of people — mostly from low income groups — join the sacco as individuals, joint account holders or groups. Others even opened accounts for their children. Members were told that after saving some amount with Ekeza, they would get loans to buy houses through Gakuyo Real Estate Company.