In 2013, the iconic Jack and Jill Supermarket breathed its last as bulldozers brought down the building that hosted the retailer. Looters took advantage of the ensuing chaos and made away with goods running into millions of shillings.
The proprietor, Schon Noorani suffered heavy losses and became an emotional wreck as he saw his business of 30 years reduced to rubbles. Unbeknownst to many, the building where Jack ‘n’ stood was owned by Maathai Supermarket Limited owner Viktar Maina Ngunjiri.
WoK brings you the intrigues that led to the fall of the once popular Jack and Jill Supermarket.
Naming of Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill Supermarket was located along Temple Road in Nairobi. The retailer enjoyed a steady flow of customers thanks to its proximity of the Machakos Bus Station and buses plying the Kisii route.
The proprietor’s daughter, then in nursery school, came up with the name as she loved singing the Jack and Jill rhyme.
Troubles Start Brewing for Jack and Jill
Trouble for the giant retailer began in 2006 when Viktar Maina Ngunjiri purchased the premises where Schon Noorani had rented. The Mathai Supermarket owner had purchased the property for a sum of ksh 72 million.
Not long after the multi-million purchase, Mr. Ngunjiri wanted to renovate the building and needed his tenant Noorani to vacate to allow the repairs to begin but was adamant to leave the premises. At the time, Noorani was paying Ksh250,000 in rent for the premises.
The landlord proceeded to court in a civil suit number 1589 of 2013, where he highlighted the building’s dilapidated condition which was confirmed by the Business Premises Rent Tribunal five years prior.
The tribunal cited wall cracks on the building that required substantial repairs to save life and property as reaffirmed by the city engineer and health officials.
The court under the then-acting Chief Magistrate C Obulutsa was fully convinced that evacuation from the property was not only necessary but to be done as soon as possible.
Noorani was authorised to vacate within seven days on a temporary basis to allow for three months of renovations.
He countered saying that it would not be possible to adequately prepare to vacate in seven days as the building housed goods worth millions that required special logistical arrangements for relocation. The court was gracious enough and halted the order allowing for him to scout for new premises.
Slept a Millionaire, Woke up a Pauper
With the numerous threats of forceful eviction from the landlord, Noorani sought the Business Premises Rent Tribunal protection in 2009, and on 24th March the same year, Victor Ngunjiri was barred from forcefully evicting, doing anything illegal, receiving rent until case determination, or harassing his tenant.
At the end of the year 2009 on 15th December, the protective cover from the tribunal was lifted after the Court of Appeal found the grounds unjustified and erroneous.
Judge M A Ang’awa and Judge David Onyancha said, “In the court’s judgment in this Appeal, this court ruled that the tribunal’s order to lift its earlier order of April 3, 2009, to withhold rents was irregularly done. For that reason, if we properly understand it, the tenant herein felt justified that the rents paid between December 15, 2009, and November 24, 2011, were refundable.” With this lift, Noorani would not be able to receive a refund for rents paid during that period amounting to Ksh 4.3 million.
On 23rd May 2013, Schon Norani woke up to a devastating and rude shock when he saw his once high-riding and iconic Jack and Jill Supermarket reduced to a pile of brick rubble. Bulldozers had taken the building down without notice.
His goods worth millions as he had shared in court were exposed to looters that took as much as they could in record minutes. A six-year legal battle between tenant and landlord had led to this ultimate fall that left Schon Noorani counting millions in losses.
He said in an interview, “I was actually asleep when I got the distressing call… I had housed my lifetime investments inside that building but did not get the chance to rescue a single cent from it. I was a millionaire when I went to bed on May 22 but woke up a pauper the following day. This is impunity of the highest order.”
Schon Nooran’s Response to his Losses
The Jack and Jill proprietor was cast into a dark and uncertain future. He went on to say that Victor Ngunjiri was on a personal selfish mission to take credit for the work Nooran had put into building the supermarket.
The landlord set up a branch of his supermarket on the very spot Jack and Jill Supermarket was located.
Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra was equally touched and sought to support him to get back on his feet. He took the matter to parliament and even penned a letter to the president seeking a halt to the numerous demolitions witnessed in Kenya at the time.
As an entrepreneur, Nooran Schon had not ventured into other branches despite it taking more than thirty years to build a reputable brand.
The impromptu demolition and looting resulted in a loss of approximately Ksh 150 million, loss of jobs for the employees, and lack of a source of income to pay suppliers. One such supplier was a cashew nut vendor whom the supermarket owed Ksh 280,000.
Compensation Following the Illegal Demolition
Schon Noorani went to court filing a case against Viktar Ngunjiri for illegally pulling down his supermarket. The High Court in Nairobi would later demand that the landlord pay the tenant a total of Ksh 30 million covering the court award, legal costs, and interest on the amount.
On the decision made in 2020, Justice Joseph Sergon ordered that Victor Ngunjiri pay monthly instalments of KSh 1,250,000 beginning on 10th November 2020.
This was faced by a counter from the landlord’s legal team that claimed that the global pandemic had caused strain on their client’s financial position and requested to be instead paying Ksh 500,000 per month.
The court dismissed this and termed it offensive to the complainant and ordered that the full amount be settled within two years.