- April 4, 2019
- Posted by: p mulee
Milimani chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti.
Image: COLLINS KWEYU
“Corruption is equal to murder, maybe worse,” Milimani chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti told the Star in an exclusive interview yesterday, as he robustly defended his tough decisions.
Magistrate Ogoti’s became a household name this week after he imposed stringent bond terms on Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal in a graft case involving Sh84.6million.
The county boss was ordered to pay Sh100 million cash bail or post Sh150 million bond. And he was ordered not to set foot in his office.
Given another chance, Ogoti, who is an SDA Church elder, said he would still render the same terms for release.
“My terms were fair, I did not deny bail. Consider the seriousness of the offence on the face of it,” the 50-year-old jurist said.
His commitment to fighting corruption becomes apparent as he explained how corruption wrecks a society, leaving beggars and hopeless people everywhere.
“A corrupt individual takes everything for himself and in the process leaves others to die. A murderer will kill only one person but someone who steals from a hospital causes much trouble. People will lack basic needs.
Corruption is in the mind. It’s an attitude. It has to be discouraged by all persons at all levels. People have to change their attitude on how to acquire wealth.
Milimani chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti
The chief magistrate, however, welcomed any variances to the bail terms he had imposed on the Samburu governor, saying he respects the court hierarchy.
“When we give orders we know they are subject to revision or appeal. Any decision at the High Court is welcomed. There is nothing we can do but as a court of the first instance, you do what is at your level to protect the integrity of the trial, the process of trial,” he said.
Ogoti said he issued the bond terms because his training as a student of management information and communication in anti-corruption cases demands that the courts speak loudest.
“These kinds of anti-corruption cases are evolving. The law allows a judge or magistrate to consider the seriousness of the charge on the face of it without looking at the evidence,” he said.
“It has reached a point where people in charge of public funds are paying themselves in their names. That is a serious thing. Anyone handling corruption matters must speak loudly and clearly,” the jurist stated.
The magistrate said corrupt people deny others resources by benefiting as an individual. He urges society, especially the youth and the church, to join the fight.
Ogoti admitted that the DPP and the Judiciary cannot fight corruption on their own. Prosecutions, he said can never finish corruption.
“A revolution that is not violent works if it changes people’s attitude towards corruption. The minds of people should be changed. The court should also be firm and communicate effectively,” he insisted.
Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal at a Milimani court on Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Image: MONICAH MWANGI
Though Ogoti said he has never been threatened or intimidated in the line of duty, His work has not been without challenges. He cited the NYS scandal in which he denied bail to the 43 accused persons, including former PS Lilian Omollo.
The NYS case was particularly challenging since it involved many charges, witnesses and accused persons.
“This is the kind of case where a witness takes five days to give his evidence,” the chief magistrate said.
He said the NYS suspects and any other person charged with corruption is no different from a chicken thief because the elements of greed and self-interest are the same.
The value only comes in when considering the sentence.
“The poor man does not access resources effectively as the rich man does. The rich man will hire a lawyer, change advocates and waste time hoping his case will fizzle out. The poor man comes to court diligently, but a thief is a thief it does not matter who,” he said.
Ogoti started working at the Judiciary in 2016. Prior to that, he worked at the ODPP for almost 20 years as a prosecutor before he became a magistrate.
In the future, he wants to be a judge and is currently pursuing a PhD in strategic management at JKUAT.
“The job group of senior assistant DPP and chief magistrate are the same. I am satisfied with this position. Change is better. And if God gives me the chance, He will go to the level of a Judge,” he said.
Since he was placed at the helm of the anti-corruption division, Ogoti has introduced pre-trials and initiated plea bargaining at the pre-trial stage. He views the work of a prosecutor easy compared to being a Magistrate. You stay in court longer and are left behind taking rulings and judgments. And doing research. Magistrate’s work is much more involving.
On Tuesday Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal was charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, abuse of office, conflict of interest and unlawful acquisition of public property. He pleaded not guilty.
“Between March 27, 2013, and March 25, 2019 …, being the Governor of Samburu County Government, you used your office to improperly confer upon yourself a benefit of Sh84 695 996 through Oryx Service Station, a business entity owned by yourself, through the supply of fuel to Samburu County Government,” read the charge sheet.
He denied all the charges.
“I initiated the pre-trials to address issues of adjournment which immensely affected the corruption cases due to reasons of non-disclosure of documents and to ensure parties are not ambushed. At every point, the court was being interrupted with preliminary applications,” he said.
Ogoti is married with four children. He loves swimming.
Meanwhile, the High Court has reduced the bond terms imposed on Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal to Sh10 million cash bail or an alternative of Sh30 million bond.
Other orders issued by Ogoti on Tuesday in a graft case against the governor will, however, remain in force pending application and hearing of an application by the DPP.
Justice Mumbi Ngugi in her ruling said the bond terms were excessive and may well amount to the denial of bail and that if he is convicted, the fine should not exceed Sh1 million, 10 years imprisonment or both.
“It has not been demonstrated that he is a flight risk, and I note that the prosecution did not oppose his application for bail,” justice Ngugi said.
“The applicant has also been barred from accessing county offices, so the apprehension that he may interfere with witnesses is not a consideration.”
Ngugi blamed Parliament for failing to treat corruption offences with gravity.
“Corruption-related offences are very serious, given the devastation they wreak on society and the well-being of citizens. However and regrettably so, Parliament does not treat corruption offences with the seriousness it deserves,” she said.
“Parliament urgently needs to look at the provisions of Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, if any inroads against corruption are to be made in this country,” she said.
The prosecution did not oppose bail but had wanted restrictions imposed against the normal functioning of the governor and the 13 others co-accused.
Magistrate Ogoti also barred Lenolkulal from accessing the Samburu county government offices until the application by DPP is heard and determined.
With frozen bank accounts and assets, Samburu governor sought to appeal the extreme bond terms through his lawyer Paul Nyamodi saying it goes against the bail and bond policy
“The accused is greatly aggrieved by the said terms which are completely outrageous and unprecedented,” Nyamodi said in the application.
“The bond amount should not be excessive and should not be greater than necessary to guarantee that the accused persons will appear in court.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been on record accusing the Judiciary of granting “abnormal bail terms”, strange orders and delaying cases