24 March 2019

Kenya: Road That Put Justice Ojwang' At the Centre of Controversy

It is the road that has put Supreme Court judge Jackton Ojwang' at the centre of controversy, prompting the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to recommend that he be investigated.

It is just one of the ordinary rural roads, running from Kakrao trading centre to Rayudhi village in Suna East constituency where his rural home is situated.

Here, residents are happy that movement is now easier as the road was recently murramed.

"The Kakrao-Wasio Road is being tarmacked. We are glad that we are benefiting from devolution," said an elderly woman whom Sunday Nation found heading to Kakrao Anglican Church, which neighbours Prof Ojwang's house.

TRIBUNAL

The JSC this week resolved to petition President Uhuru Kenyatta to form a tribunal to investigate the conduct of the Supreme Court judge.

This follows allegations of close association with Migori County government and its Governor Okoth Obado.

One complaint against the judge is that he authored a judgment in respect to the Sony sugarbelt and in return was rewarded by Mr Obado, who allegedly built the road to the judge's private residence on the outskirts of Migori Town.

Notably, street lights have been installed along the road leading to the judge's residence.

At Justice Ojwang's home, which residents said is always guarded by Administration Police officers, Sunday Nation only found employees.

One of the employees, a middle-aged woman, said the judge resided in Nairobi and only visited during holidays.

"The boss and his wife, Prof Colleta Suda were here during December holidays. When he comes, you may not notice his presence because he is a man of few words," said the employee.

REASONABLE GROUNDS

The JSC said on Wednesday that the accusations against Justice Ojwang' formed reasonable grounds to warrant the formation of the tribunal.

It singled out miscellaneous application No. 49 of 2014, of the town council of Awendo versus Mr Nelson Oduor Onyango and eight other residents of Migori.

"The petition detailed instances which the petitioners believed constituted grounds of misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of the judicial code of conduct on the part of the judge," the JSC said in a statement.

It noted that Justice Ojwang' sat with other judges of the Supreme Court in hearing the matter, "despite being conflicted and closely associated with Governor Obado".

The JSC said, "The commission found that the petition disclosed sufficient ground to warrant a recommendation to the President to set up a tribunal for the removal of Justice Ojwang and accordingly adopted it."

COMMITTEE

Members, led by Chief Justice David Maraga, regretted that the judge refused to appear before the committee appointed to probe the matter.

The judge, however, defends himself, saying, "Justice Ojwang was not part of the Supreme Court bench that then proceeded beyond the earlier formal determination and heard and determined the main grievance which had related to interests in the Sony sugarbelt area."

The judge argues that "very strangely, however, those same vested interests, now acting through coached, perjured witnesses, came before the Judicial Service Commission averring that the said Justice J.B. Ojwang remains a bad man, since then Migori County Governor, his friend, has constructed a private and personal tarmac (or murram?) road to serve his countryside home exclusively ... "

OBADO DENIAL

On Friday, Mr Obado denied rewarding judge Ojwang with a road to his private residence.

"That is a public road. If you look at its current condition, it does not merit somebody to make a lot of noise," he said.

He accused unnamed people of wanting to portray a bad image of the judge and himself.

In his letter, the judge accuses the commission of arranging with senior police officers and surveyors to travel to his residence near Migori town "to take photographs of the road network, showing major and the minor roads."

He requests that those photographs be supplied to his advocates.

OJWANG' DEFENCE

Justice Ojwang' defends himself from any wrongdoing, stating: "it is further evidence that, in the two-and-half kilometres or so of earth roads running in the direction of my said Migori suburban home, there are numerous homes (may be 50 or 100), served by these roads, which also serve travellers from all directions heading towards Migori town."

Justice Ojwang' faces a second petition, raised by former Law Society of Kenya CEO Apollo Mboya.

Justice Ojwang alongside justices Mohamed Ibrahim and Njoki Ndung'u are accused of writing a judgment despite a pending disciplinary matter.

In his response to the JSC, Justice Ojwang' says he has constitutional immunity and that the commission has no mandate to investigate the issue, a position that the commissioners said left them with no alternative but to recommend the setting up of a tribunal to investigate his conduct.

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