JSC to meet over judge Chitembwe video allegations

Friday, November 19th, 2021 00:00 | By
High Court judge Said Juma Chitembwe. Photo/PD/File

The Judicial Service Commission plans to meet over a leaked video linking High Court judge Said Chitembwe to a corruption scandal.

Chief Justice Martha Koome told People Daily that the Judiciary was seized of the matter which has elicited serious debate in legal circles and discled that JSC would  meet to discuss it.

“The Judicial Service Commission will meet to deliberate on the issue according to its constitution and statutory set procedures,” she stated. 

Koome observed that a judge’s removal could only be initiated by JSC, either on its own motion or based on a petition by any person, Justice Koome said the Judiciary was handling the matter.

The Chief Justice has taken judicial notice of what has been reported in the media and the Judicial Service Commission is seized of the matter.

She did not, however, state exactly when the commission would meet to discuss the controversial matter. 

“Article 168(b) of the Constitution makes provision for removal of a judge of a superior court on account of breach of the code of conduct prescribed for judges of the superior courts by an Act of Parliament,” she stated. 

On Tuesday, former Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko released a video footage allegedly showing Justice Chitembwe discussing how to compromise a case.

In the amateur video, a man purported to be the judge is seen receiving a bag full of money from a female lawyer for the purpose of defeating justice.

In the expose, a man alleged to be George Kariuki and believed to be the Deputy State House Comptroller, claims to have been sent by “State House” to convince Chitembwe not to stop Sonko’s impeachment.

Dubbed: “The Rot in the Kenyan Judiciary” the first episode of a five-part series shows the events leading to Sonko’s impeachment and Chitembwe’s alleged involvement in fraudulent dealings in his chambers.

Fraudulent dealings

The video leak also captures a man who claims to be Chitembwe’s brother and nominee in the deal, Amana Saidi and also shows the circumstances surrounding the swearing-in of Ann Kananu as Nairobi Governor.

The judge, in an interview, however, disowned Saidi, saying he was not his brother.

Chitembwe said he had known Saidi for about 10 years because they both come from Kwale county.

On Wednesday, lawyers called for Chitembwe’s resignation or removal from office and threatened to boycott his court.

Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi, called on JSC to “move fast and investigate the allegations raised by former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko with a view to kicking him (judge) out”.

“I have examined the exposé by Sonko. The Judiciary took him out of office through subterfuge and he is determined to go down with it if JSC does not act.

JSC must initiate the process of removal of the judge on its own, without any further delay. It is so ordered,” Havi wrote on Twitter.

The Nairobi LSK chapter, through chairman Eric Theuri, threatened to eject the judge from his chambers if JSC does not expedite investigation into the complaints against him within 14 days.

Nairobi lawyers also vowed to henceforth boycott the judge’s court until allegations leveled against him are processed by JSC to conclusion.

LSK chief executive Mercy Wambua, separately called for a speedy determination and conclusion of the complaints against Chitembwe, so as to restore confidence in the Judiciary.

Speedy determination

“This requires urgent investigations to be undertaken, before public confidence in the Judiciary is completely eroded. Council acknowledges that judicial authority is derived from the people and judicial officers are expected to adhere to the constitutional values and principles of public service, Chapter Six of the Constitution and the Judicial Service Code of Conduct and ethics,” stated Wambua.

Chitembwe is not new to controversy.  In December 2009, he was charged alongside then National Social Security Fund Managing Trustee Rachael Lumbasyo with conspiracy to defraud the organisation Sh1.2 billion.

The two, who were  also accused of  abuse of office, were, however, acquitted for insufficient evidence to prove they were out to defraud NSSF.

New controversy

A year later, Chitembwe, who was then serving in Kakamega, was arrested in Mombasa by the then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to face more charges of fraudulently paying NSSF’s Sh8,071,724 to Kipkenda, Lilan and Company Advocates for services that were not adequately rendered in a transaction for the sale of five plots on Kenyatta Avenue.

He was later acquitted.

In July, Justice Chitembwe was one of the two judges arrested after police said they got a tip-off that the two judges intended to receive a bribe.

Chitembwe, while defending himself in an application stopping his prosecution, denied being involved in fraud, claiming he had voluntarily surrendered $7,000 that was in his possession and which he intended to pay his son’s fees.

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