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Sakaja not yet off the hook in degree scam

Monday, June 20th, 2022 01:19 | By
Sakaja before the IEBC tribunal
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja with his supporters at Milimani Law Courts where IEBC Disputes Resolution Committee cleared him to vie for Nairobi governor seat. PD/Charles Mathai

The controversy surrounding the nomination of Senator Johnson Sakaja as the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate for Nairobi governorship took a new turn yesterday when the national polls agency cleared him to contest the seat after two weeks of high drama.

Sakaja’s academic qualifications had been contested at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Disputes Resolution Committee, which yesterday threw out a petition lodged by voter Dennis Gakuu.

The senator was cleared shortly after Kenya Kwanza leaders led by Deputy President William Ruto and Amani National Congress (ANC) Musalia Mudavadi took to Nairobi’s Jacaranda grounds demanding his clearance.

“Sakaja is being fought by the system just like myself, they said he will not be on the ballot but I want to assure you that he will be on the ballot,” said Ruto during the rally at the Jacaranda grounds.

The IEBC Disputes Resolution Committee led by George Murugu on Sunday dismissed the complaint saying it lacks jurisdiction to determine the validity of Sakaja’s degree.

“This committee lacks the jurisdiction to investigate the authenticity of the degree of Sakaja. We, therefore, dismiss the complaint,” ruled the Murugu-led committee. Hardly had the news sank than Sakaja learnt of another hurdle he must surmount if he is to be on the ballot. 

Sakaja, his Meru counterpart Mithika Linturi and Machakos gubernatorial aspirant Wavinya Ndeti have been summoned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for grilling over reports that they are in possession of forged certificates.

Acted within law 

The three are expected to be grilled this morning by detectives from the DCI’s Serious Crimes Unit and are expected to furnish them with, among other things, copies of their certificates, transcripts for the academic years, and admission letters.

Sakaja had in 2017 declared to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) that he had a degree from the University of Nairobi.

“Part of the probe will be to establish the authenticity of the certificate he presented to the EACC,” a senior officer told People Daily. Yesterday, while dismissing the complaint by Gakuu, the committee further stated that the returning officer discharged his mandate in accordance with the law and the complaint lacks merit.

“The IEBC lacks tools to investigate and to undertake inquiries into the validity and legitimacy of academic certificates and credentials supplied to it by various political candidates but merely acts in trust on the face value of the documents,” the committee ruled.

The move came even as the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Kiambu senate candidate Karungo Thang’wa suffered a setback after the same committee dismissed his complaint seeking to compel the returning officer to clear him to vie in the forthcoming elections.

A judgment delivered by the committee dismissed the complaint by Karungo and upheld the decision by the county returning officer to block him from contesting for the senatorial seat.

The committee held that the returning officer acted within the law by declining to clear Karungo on account of him having been removed from public office and presenting himself for nomination outside the gazetted timelines.

“The committee upholds the decision of the returning officer in declining to nominate Karungo and the complaint is hereby dismissed,” ruled Murugu.

And immediately after the ruling clearing Sakaja was announced, a jubilant Sakaja announced to his supporters that he would be in the ballot even as celebrations rocked Jacaranda grounds where the Kenya Kwanza leaders were addressing a rally.

Requisite qualifications

Sakaja, while addressing the press outside Milimani law courts, said he is happy with the decision of the IEBC to uphold the rule of law.

“I’m glad that we have been vindicated, we stand qualified, we have the requisite qualifications to run for the office of governor of Nairobi,” Sakaja said. 

“We are in it to win so that we can transform this great city of ours,” he added soon after the verdict was delivered. 

“So, we shall continue with our campaigns in earnest, we shall continue talking to the people of Nairobi,” Sakaja said, adding that he will launch his manifesto soon.

Sakaja is seeking the governor seat on a UDA ticket alongside former Absa Bank Kenya Chief Operating Officer James Njoroge who is his running mate.

The senator is set to lock horns with the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance candidate Polycarp Igathe in what is shaping up largely as a two horse race.

“I have the strength and courage and hope that the truth will be known and God’s will for Nairobi will be realised. We have said that our hustlers, children will get their dues. We want the incoming government to be for the pro poor,” said Sakaja.

Gakuu had argued that Sakaja’s degree is not genuine, as he never graduated from the Team University in Uganda as he claims.

Through lawyer Paul Nyamodi, the voter informed the IEBC tribunal that the allegations that Sakaja holds a valid university degree are false. 

“Sakaja cannot be cleared to view on the basis of a forged degree certificate and is, therefore, liable for criminal Prosecution for forgery and fraudulent misrepresentation,” said Gakuu. 

With respect to Karungo whose case was upheld by the tribunal, the committee noted that indeed he was removed from office and all orders restraining the said removal have since been vacated.

“For clarity Karungo was not impeached but removed from office by the resolution of the Kiambu County Assembly. The removal stands, “ ruled Murugu. 

Karungo, through his lawyer Ng’ang’a Mbugua, had lodged a complaint at the committee scoffing at claims by the IEBC that he is ineligible because he was impeached from office of Kiambu county government executive committee on alleged gross misconduct.

Lawyer Mbugua had explained that he was neither impeached nor removed from office and that the decision of the IEBC is erroneous.

After the ruling Karungo said he is dissatisfied with the decision of the committee and will appeal the same in the High court tomorrow.

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