It’s a dog’s life for former high-fliers on graft charges

Monday, May 10th, 2021 00:00 | By
Former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich (right) with former PS Kamau Thugge at a Nairobi court on July 23, 2019 where they were charged over the multi-billion-shilling Kimwarer and Arror dams scandals. Photo/PD/FILE

Eric Wainaina @Ewainaina

In happier times, former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu lived large. A Range Rover Vogue, three Toyota V8 vehicles and three Mercedes S500 and several Subaru chase cars formed his entourage. 

Today, it is not uncommon to see Waititu criss-crossing Nairobi’s ever busy Koinange Street on foot without the retinue of hangers-on as he supervises workers at his low-end eatery opposite City Market.

Here, a plate of Nyama Choma served with a generous plate of Ugali goes for a modest Sh250.

A man of all seasons, Waititu has no qualms rushing to the kitchen to fetch “Ugali sosa” for a customer.         

If not at his eatery, Waititu spends time shuttling from one court to the other to answer to several corruption cases facing him.

He has also become a regular client within corridors of justice trying to save his vehicles from the auctioneer’s hammer over a Sh10 million debt, which he has been unable to pay.

He reportedly borrowed the money from Mwananchi Credit Ltd in 2019.  In suit papers filed in a Kiambu court, Waititu says he is unable to service the loan, since he has no sustainable income after he was pushed out of office.

“That due to the current financial constraints I am facing, I am unable to clear the said loan within the afore stated period.

My present situation has been coupled with the fact that I am facing numerous cases before an anti-corruption court in which I have incurred a lot of costs and expenses hiring advocates.

I have endeavoured to at least clear a sum of Sh1,280,000,” Waititu says in an affidavit.

The former governor recently disclosed that his close friends had deserted him, adding that they do not even call him.

“I have now understood politics better. When I was the Kiambu governor, I used to receive calls from different people, especially fellow politicians seeking favours from me,” Waititu recalled.

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is no better. In his heydays at the helm of the Nairobi county government, Sonko had President Uhuru Kenyatta on speed dial.

In one famous public stunt, Sonko made a phone call to the President and put him on speakerphone to the delight of his supporters in Nairobi. That was then.

Today, Sonko is a pale shadow of his former self. With several graft cases hanging on his neck, the once flamboyant governor cuts a lonely figure with hitherto hangers-on avoiding him like the plague.

Waliniruka hao wote (all of them betrayed me). I do not want to look petty (by crying foul).

Life after politics is good and sweet,” Sonko told People Daily over his changed fortunes.

Frozen accounts

Former Youth Affairs Principal Secretary Lillian Omollo, who was the accounting officer in the ministry which ran the National Youth Service, has also had her fortunes take a nose-dive after she was charged with theft of billions of shillings.

She once asked the court to allow her withdraw about Sh6.8 million quarterly from her frozen accounts towards repayment of a loan among other bills, which demonstrated a lavish lifestyle, forcing Justice Hedwig Ong’udi to tell her: “There is a lot of room for the First applicant to adjust her lifestyle to fit her current financial status.”

The bills, included school fees amounting to Sh5.4 million, Sh219,000 for payment of domestic workers, utility bills of Sh102,079, Sh449,000 for fuel and maintenance of vehicles, Sh150,000 for food and Sh210,000 for incidentals. 

These are some of the more recent example of high-flying Kenyans who have seen their fortunes tumble in the wake of corruption related cases haunting them.

The now common practice of blocking accounts of top officials charged with corruption has only served to aggravate a bad situation.

From Cabinet Secretaries to governors and heads of parastatals, city streets are littered with former important people who have been forced to come down to earth.

In his heydays, former Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich wielded real power in the Jubilee administration.

Rotich’s signature meant doom or success to those seeking benefit from the government purse. For more than seven years, Rotich controlled the national public expenditure as he kept the national purse.

Senior State officials, contractors and investors queued in his office in a desperate quest for his all-important signature.

But in 2019, Rotich’s career came crushing after the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered for his arrest and prosecution alongside others over allegations of corruption related to the construction of two dams.

Since then, Rotich has been a regular guest at the courts where he is battling abuse of office and corruption charges.

Early this year, Rotich left Kenyans stunned when he disclosed that the case had drained him so much so that he had become penniless.

“Since I became jobless, no one is willing to even lend me his ear for consultancy services,” Rotich told the court.

Criminal lawyer Danstan Omari, who has represented many former high flyers facing corruption charges, said the life they are subjected to after arrest is not worth it, only comparable to a dog’s.

Omari says many former government officials can no longer comfortably provide for their families, leading some of them to break up with their spouses while others are stigmatised to an extent of contemplating suicide.

 “Immediately these people are arrested, their bank accounts, those of their spouses and children are frozen. Some of those accounts, which cannot be accessed for years, ran family businesses,” says the lawyer.

Omari says that some of the officials had taken huge loans, which they can’t repay, while others have had their homes auctioned.

“The life of a suspect or an accused person facing corruption charges is miserable. It is not a life worth living,” he said.

Rotich recently shocked a court trying him over his alleged role in the Kimwarer and Arror dams scandals when he claimed that he is currently living from hand to mouth.

Though he did not respond to our queries about his current lifestyle that has seen his influence dwindle, Rotich, who was the posterboy of a successful finance professional, is on record saying that few people would want to associate with him since his removal from government.

Alleged role

“The particulars of prejudice include loss of dignity arising from the unfairness and misappropriation of law against the applicant, loss of opportunity to economic activity including and not limited to opportunities such as employment or consultancy as long as these charges are hanging over his head.

This has gravely curtailed his rights to social-economic opportunities and rights due to the respondents’ misappropriation of law,” Rotich’s says in court papers filed by his advocates.

Rotich was charged alongside former Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge and his East African Community counterpart Susan Koech whose cases have also plunged them into an unfamiliar territory. Thugge’s charges were later dropped after he turned into a state witness.

Another former Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau, who is perhaps better remembered a high flying Principal Secretary in-charge of one of the most prestigious government dockets, has been leading a miserable life after he was paraded in court over alleged misappropriation of approximately Sh33 million.

Another high-flyer whose influence took a turn for the ground is former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero. In his heydays, whether at the then blue chip Mumias Sugar Company or City Hall, Kidero’s office was always teeming with all manner of visitors from big people in society, all craving for his audience.

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