Kenya: Nairobi County Plunged Into a Crisis After Sonko Barred From Office

11 December 2019

Nairobi — Nairobi County Government has been plunged into a management crisis, after the court barred Governor Mike Sonko from setting foot in his office after facing corruption charges in a Sh357 million scandal.

The order was issued by Magistrate Douglas Ogoti when he granted him a cash bail of Sh15 million or bond of Sh30 million.

"The court directs that accused 1 (Sonko) be barred from accessing his office, and if need be he can be escorted to collect his office by the Investigating Officer or an authorised officer to pick his belongings," the magistrate said.

As a result, constitutional Lawyers are divided on whether Sonko can still appoint a Deputy to take charge as he battles corruption charges in court.

Lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo, who served in the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, said Sonko has only been barred from executing tasks which may interfere with his case but enjoys all the other executive authority.

"Governor Sonko even right now can nominate someone for Deputy Governor or designate a CEC, and if that does not happen it will leave the county dysfunctional, then that will leave dissolution or impeachment as the other options. This is definitely a crisis," he said

Waiganjo further added that Parliament can amend the County Government Act to provide for the area that was not been provided for.

But Bobby Mkangi, who took part in drafting the 2010 Constitution, says the crisis can only be resolved in court.

"There is definitely a crisis; because the Nairobi County Government still has a substantive Governor, only that he cannot execute his authority. It is only the courts that can give us directions as pertains matters concerning service delivery and administration of the county government," he said.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja blamed the courts for failing to provide direction as a result of the July 2019 ruling by Justice Mumbi Ngugi which found that governors should step aside once charged for a criminal offense.

He called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to convene an emergency summit over the evolving situation in the Capital city.

Sonko has been running the county without a deputy since January 2018 when Polycarp Igathe resigned.

County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi said they will be seeking an advisory opinion from the Attorney General on the way forward.

Elachi ruled that the house will proceed on recess according to the Assembly's calendar but added that they are ready to be recalled back for any emergency agenda arises.

"The house will proceed on recess as we wait for an advisory opinion from the Attorney General and we are ready for a special sitting should the need arise," she said.

Elachi's ruling elicited reactions among opposition MCAs who wanted an extension of the session so the matter could be resolved.

Minority leader David Mberia said they had written to the Speaker seeking to have an extension of the assembly to enable them deal with the constitutional crisis facing the county.

I am surprised that the Speaker has declined to extend the assembly sitting yet we are having a constitutional crisis in our County, we wanted the extension so that we can get directions from our party leader as well as from Jubilee party," said Mberia, also Karen MCA.

Sonko has denied charges leveled against him by the EACC when he appeared before Ogoti at the Milimani Law Courts on Monday.

The Public Prosecutor accused Sonko of irregularly awarding tenders totaling Sh357.4 million out of which he and eight other City Hall officials accrued benefits.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said the accused persons, "facilitated and/or benefitted from the irregular procurement and payments amounting to Sh357, 390,299 million."

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