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Council to meet Uhuru over city leadership crisis

By Hillary Mageka
Monday, December 9th, 2019
Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya. Photo/PD/FILE

The Council of Governors has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the leadership crisis at Nairobi City County Government following the arrest of Governor Mike Sonko on Friday.

The unfolding crisis is compounded by the fact that Governor Sonko has no deputy, 18 months after the resignation of Polycarp Igathe. 

Following Sonko’s arrest and detention, the council said they were “monitoring and consulting widely on the unfolding situation”.

“We are, however, aware of the uniqueness of the county government and therefore we shall reach out to the President to convene an emergency summit to address the evolving situation,” said the CoG chair Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also the Kakamega Governor, in a statement to newsrooms yesterday. 

Sonko, who spent the weekend in jail, will together with eight officers from Nairobi county, be arraigned this morning to face charges of conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, willful failure to comply with law relating to procurement, conflict of interest, abuse of office, and unlawful acquisition of public property. Other charges are deceiving principal, money laundering, and acquisition of proceeds of crime.

The suspects are accused of benefiting from irregular procurement and payments amounting to Sh357 million. The officials to be charged alongside Sonko are County Secretary Peter Mbugua, Head of Supply Chain Management Patrick Mwangangi, Negotiation, Tender Opening and Evaluation Committee members Edwin Kariuki, Lawrence Mwangi, and Preston Mwandiki and clerical officers Wambua Ndaka and Andrew Nyasiego.

Other private persons and business entities include the Director of Hardy Enterprises and Toddy Civil Engineering Anthony Nganga and his partner Rose Njeri Nganga, Anthony Otieno Ombok, Arbab Auto Limited, ROG Security Ltd, High Energy Petroleum Limited, Web Tribe Limited and its two directors Danson Muchemi and Robert Muriithi Muna, among others.

Meanwhile, services at City Hall are likely to be grounded starting this morning even as lawyers warned of a possible constitutional crisis.

The fact that Kiambu Governor Ferdinard Waititu and his Samburu counterpart Moses Lenokulal were charged over economic crimes, and in line with High Court judge Mumbi Ngugi’s ruling on July 24 this year that county chiefs charged with corruption should stay away from office and their roles completely taken over by their deputies for the duration of the trial, Sonko’s issue will present a complete quagmire.

With no deputy governor to step in once Sonko is charged and barred from office, questions are now arising on who will take over the reins of power at City Hall.

Assume office

On Friday, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji directed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to immediately arraign Sonko, several county officials and businesspersons, who facilitated and/or benefitted from the irregular procurement and payments amounting to Sh357,390,299 million.

Haji said he had sufficient evidence to prosecute Sonko and other county officials for “unlawful acquisition of public property, money laundering and other economic crimes”.

Should he stand trial today, lawyers and constitution experts are divided on who will succeed Sonko albeit in acting capacity, with some claiming Nairobi City County Speaker Beatrice Elachi should take over for 60 days before a fresh poll is conducted.

As provided in Article 183(4) of the Constitution, County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi would only act as governor if there was a ‘vacancy’ in the office of the governor. 

However, Article 182 (5) (6) states that if a vacancy occurs in the circumstances contemplated by clause (4), an election to the office of county governor shall be held within 60 days after the Speaker assumes the office of county governor.

Kamotho Waiganjo, a constitution expert, submits that the current constitution did not anticipate the scenarios at City Hall. He explained that the path to Elachi taking over City Hall is a vacancy in the office of the governor; that is why there would be an election after 60 days.

Fill void

“Any other interpretation would lead to an absurdity where you have an election for Governor while the other one is still in office albeit stopped from working,” he said.

However, Alex Gatundu, a council member at Law Society of Kenya, said it would be absurd to assume that the Constitution would allow or contemplate, a situation whereby there can be concurrent vacancy in the offices of the governor and his deputy  without anyone acting to fill the void even if on temporary basis.

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