Kenya: Experts Warn of Legal Crisis in Nairobi Take-Over

26 February 2020

Nairobi — Opinion is divided among legal experts on the constitutionality of the Nairobi County take-over by the National Government, in a deal signed at State House on Tuesday.

While some welcomed the move as the best solution for the city county that was largely paralysed due to mass sackings and suspension of staff by Governor Mike Sonko as he ruled with an iron fist, often making it difficult for staff to deliver, others said the move will cause a constitutional crisis.

In an unprecedented move, the first time Governor whose ruling has been marred by controversy since he assumed office in 2013 ostensibly after being charged over corruption recently, unilaterally surrendered key functions to the National Government in what has now kicked up a storm over his legitimacy as the Governor.

Sonko, who is out on bond, is barred by the court from setting foot in office until his case is heard and determined, even though he has been making changes to his cabinet among other executive orders.

A communication from State House, Nairobi dispatched to newsrooms on the new arrangements immediately sparked debate among legal scholars who questioned the move by the controversial Governor going to bed with the National Government, at a time of raging concerns that devolution is under a threat.

"In a landmark agreement signed at State House today (Tuesday), Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa in concurrence with H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta, signed an agreement, handing over functions of the Nairobi County Government to the National Government, pursuant to Article 187 of the Constitution," the statement by State House Spokeswoman Kanze Dena said.

But this move has sparked mixed reactions, including from lawyers.

"Did Governor Sonko had the benefit of a legal COUNSEL in SURRENDERING county government number 47 to the central government under Article 187? Now that he has ABDICATED formally, when will the people of Nairobi elect a governor of their choice?," lawyer Ahmednassir Abdulahi posed.

And for Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior, "the County Government of NAIROBI is as good as dissolved ! "

Mutula Junior is particularly worried, of the following , " Will the Assembly oversight the national executive? I doubt ! Will the functions revert ? I doubt . Will the Assembly budget for the assigned functions?unlikely ! Will we include them in County revenue allocation? Serious Constitutional issues."

So weighty is this matter, that Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, also a lawyer, sought more time to digest it.

"The matter of transfer of functions from Nairobi County to National Government is such a weighty matter that requires deep deflection. I will be making a comprehensive statement in the Senate tomorrow and this matter will occupy most of our debating time tomorrow," Murkomen, who is also the Majority Leader in the Senate tweeted late Tuesday.

State House said the take-over was in line with Article 187 of the Constitution.

The signing of the agreement was witnessed by the Speaker of the Senate, Kenneth Lusaka and Attorney General Paul Kihara, she added, "This will ensure Nairobi residents receive services efficiently."

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