Wajir governor sent home for abuse of office
Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka
Embattled Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi Mahamud has been impeached. Mahamud lost his seat after 25 senators voted to kick him out of the office.
The lawmakers voted in favour of one charge of two brought against the governor, which included gross violation of the Constitution or any other law, abuse of office, gross misconduct and crimes under national law.
However, Governor Mahamud fought back all the allegations during a lengthy trial by the Senate that stretched into the night yesterday, as he tried to persuade senators to dismiss his impeachment charges.
“The Senate has resolved to remove by way of impeachment the Governor of Wajir, and therefore he ceases to hold that office,” Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka ruled at 9:45pm.
At least 24 of the 47 elected senators (delegation) were needed to sustain the charge.
The defence by 16 senators, mostly allied to Deputy President William Ruto, proved insufficient to rescue Mahamud.
Three senators, including chairperson of the special committee that indicted the governor, Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni and Minority Leader James Orengo (Siaya) abstained the vote.
Others were Senators Kindiki Kithure (Tharaka Nithi), Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira), and Ochillo Ayacko (Migori)
This is despite passionate appeal to the House by the governor’s lawyer, Ndwega Njiru to have mercy and acquit him.
“Is it only so hard to plead with you to have him finish the 10 months? Then the Wajir people will be granted the opportunity to evaluate him through the power of votes.
This Assembly is being called upon to protect devolution,” Njiru posed.
Homa bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ said the House establishes that the allegation is impeachable, he said, other 46 governors should be impeached if using the same standard.
“If the MCAs of Homa bay are watching this...if Wajir Governor can be impeached because a health worker died because of lack of oxygen, I want to encourage them to impeach my governor because a health worker also died, because the county government could not provide the health worker with appropriate care.” Kajwang’ said.
Bomet Senator Christopher Lagat said the House should look at every allegation very keenly so that the Senate judgement may actually satisfy the needs and the wishes of the people of Wajir.
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot asked his colleagues to jealously guard devolution bearing in mind that many of the citizens of this country are disillusioned with the promise of devolution, eight years down the line.
While faulting the governor, Cheruiyot said while the law may not be so specific on how, for example, the timeline with which a governor should establish a county budget economic forum.
“A good governor, somebody who cares about the interests of the people who voted him into office, should be diligent enough to establish such a forum. Unless the governor before us doesn’t understand the importance of a county budget economic forum,” he said.
In the case before the 11-member special Senate Committee that probed the governor’s impeachment, the county Assembly put forward 15 allegations in support of the charge of gross violation of the law.
In its verdict, the committee chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni established that the allegation of violation of the right to Health of Wajir residents was substantiated and recommended to the House to uphold his ouster.
“The committee finds that the allegation was proved, and was therefore substantiated,” the report, adding that it also meets threshold for impeachment of the governor under article 181 of the Constitution.
“The committee, therefore, finds that charge one on gross violation of the Constitution, County Government Act, 2012, Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015 and the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 has been substantiated,” report adds.
Governor, while defending himself against the charges, argued that whereas the issue of deteriorating health status in the county may be impeachable, it did not meet the threshold for gross violation of the Constitution. “It may be impeachable but it cannot amount to gross violation of the Constitution. I am saying this because we have done a lot in the county since I became Wajir governor,” he said.
He claimed he had eradicated the perennial problem of inter clan conflicts since he took over in 2017 and restored peace in the county.
“In the end, we were successful and for the last four years we have not had a single incident of clan clashes,” he said.
“Also, all the 30 wards receive Sh25 million each annually irrespective of whether they voted for the governor or not. That is equal opportunity for everybody,” he added.
Asked why the county sources its oxygen from the neighbouring county of Mandera and Nairobi, the governor said Wajir is not on the national grid, forcing the county government to rely on diesel-driven generators.
The committee, however, ruled that allegations of abuse of office/gross misconduct, violations under written law and undermining the authority of the Assembly had not been substantiated.
“Of all the 15 allegations, the committee was not able to find that there was any substantiation against 13 of them and the same were dismissed,” Omogeni said.
Omogeni explained that the committee made a finding that not each violation or failure to observe a particular section of a statute should lead to impeachment.
Committee, however, indicted the governor over failure to submit annual report of the implementation status of the county policies and plans.
According to the House team, the embattled county chief did not comply with the County Government Act to submit the annual report on the implementation status of the policies and plans and hence, found the allegation substantiated.
The Senate team also observed that it is not a gross violation of the Constitution or any other law as it is not serious, nor substantial and weighty as to warrant the governor’s removal from office.
“The committee found that the governor did not comply with the requirement under section 30 (2) (j) of the County Government Act to submit the annual report on the implementation status of the county policies and plans,” the report.
“The committee, however, also determines that this violation does not rise to the threshold for impeachment of the governor,” report adds.
The Wajir county MCAs, through Senior Counsel Ahmednassir Abdullahi, had accused the governor of ruining the Health sector due to gross mismanagement.
They further alleged that whereas the Assembly has allocated over Sh2.4 billion to the department of Medical Services, Public Health and Sanitation in the Financial Years 2018/19, 2019/2020, and 2020/21, the only County referral hospital laboratory cannot conduct a Covid-19 test, due to faulty test kits and lack of reagents despite additional allocation of Sh194 million to the county government.
“Mismanagement of the budget appropriated for basic health services such as ambulances, fuel and maintenances as evidenced by the public outcry after widely circulated incident in Eldas Constituency where a desperate caller who wanted to save a life in rural Eldas was tasked to buy tires and fuel for the ambulance,” the MCAs noted.