Crisis in city Hall as Sonko is out without a deputy



Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in court on 19th December 2019


Nairobi county is in a crisis after Governor Mike Sonko stonewalled pleas to nominate a deputy hours before he was barred from accessing office. 

City Hall is essentially on auto-pilot as the governor cannot access his office on orders of the court. 

Chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti Wednesday stopped the flamboyant city boss from setting foot in office after he was charged with corruption on Monday.

The Star has reported that on Tuesday night, top Jubilee operatives reached out to Sonko to name a deputy to save the county from leadership and constitutional crises.

However, Sonko rejected the overtures, including pressure from State House and Deputy President William Ruto’s office, to fill the position.

A delegation of leaders from within the ruling party is said to have held a meeting with the governor at Kenyatta National Hospital where he was held.

Among those fronted by the various factions of Jubilee were ex-Dagoreti South MP Denis Waweru and Water and Environment CEC Veska Kangogo.

“Nominating a deputy is not in his plans, at least for now. He says he is still the governor and will be holding CEC meetings in his home in Mua,” a close confidant of the governor told the Star.

However, some lawyers say the ruling took away from Sonko all the powers of a governor, including that of nominating a deputy.

This would mean that Sonko’s reign has collapsed leaving the county with two tough options.

The first would be for the MCAs to impeach Sonko to pave way for fresh elections.

The second option would be for President Uhuru Kenyatta to suspend the county government and set the ball rolling for fresh polls.

The crisis comes at a time when the county assembly is rocked by division and chaos. 

The return of embattled Speaker Beatrice Elachi has spilt the majority Jubilee MCAs right down the middle. 

And the Star has established that some ODM MCAs had started collecting signatures to impeach the governor for incompetence and gross violation of the Constitution.

It took the intervention of the Minority leader David Mberia to rein them.

“I had sought the direction from our party leader [Raila Odinga] but he promised to get back to me tomorrow (today). So we are waiting for his direction. If he tells us to go ahead, then that will be it,” Mberia said.

The impeachment bid has received the backing of the renegade faction of Jubilee MCAs led by ousted Majority leader Abdi Guyo, which has promised to support it.

Wednesday, confusion and panic reigned at City Hall with senior officers opting to remain mum on the matter.

Sonko has been running the county with eight CECs out of 10 after he suspended Charles Kerich (Finance) and Mohamed Dagane (Health).

Nearly half of the chief officers and directors are serving in acting capacity because of the governors’ erratic suspension and expulsion of staff.

Wednesday while adjourning the assembly sittings, Elachi said MCAs would formally seek a constitutional interpretation from the Attorney General.

Jubilee Party officials are also said to have sought legal advice on how to proceed.

Legal experts were Wednesday divided over whether Governor Sonko still has the powers to appoint a deputy.

Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi said that the governor cannot appoint a deputy following the court’s order.

Mkangi said that the ruling meant that the governor has been barred from discharging any official duties.

“If he could have picked a deputy before the pronouncement of the court that would have had some weight. With the order barring him from accessing office, he has been suspended from discharging duties of the governor,” he said.

However, lawyer Nzamba Kitonga, who chaired the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review said the governor still has the powers to appoint a deputy.

“Being denied access to his office does not take away his constitutional powers to appoint a deputy governor,” he said.

Sonko who was dramatically arrested on Friday was granted a cash bail of Sh15 million or Sh30 million bond.

Barring him from office was one of the conditions the court set after Sonko pleaded not guilty to economic crimes, money laundering, abuse of office and unlawful acquisition of public property.

The county has been running without a deputy governor for almost two years after Polycarp Igathe resigned five months into their joint term in January 2018. 

 The requirement for governors facing criminal charges to keep away from their offices follows a ruling by High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi.

Justice Ngugi ruled on July 24 that state officers facing graft charges should also step aside.

In the landmark decision, Mumbi ruled that county chiefs’ roles should be performed by their deputies for the duration of their trials.

“Would it serve the public interest for him [governors] to go back to the office and preside over the finances of the county that he has been charged with embezzling from?

“What message does it send to the citizen if their leaders are charged with serious corruption offences, and are in office the following day, overseeing the affairs of the institution?

“How effective will prosecution of such state officers be, when their subordinates, who are likely to be witnesses, are under the direct control of the indicted officer?” she asked.

Wednesday Ogoti said Sonko should not access his office but he allowed him to collect his belongings in the presence of the investigating officer or any other authorised official.

Sonko has suffered the same fate as that of Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and his Samburu counterpart Moses Lenolkulal.

However, Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong who also faces corruption charges is still able to access office.

In releasing Sonko on bail, Ogoti declined to comment on the functionality of the county government saying he lacked the jurisdiction to do so.

He, however, implored Sonko not to comment on the case in the social media and to ensure his supporters do not cause any unrest.

He also barred him and the other accused persons from approaching or communicating with the witnesses in the case.

The accused persons were also directed to deposit their travel documents in court.

Ogoti said he considered the gravity of the offence, the amount of money involved and the accused persons in the case. 

Immediately the court set the bail terms, Sonko’s lawyer Cecil Miller rose and urged the court to allow his client to be taken back to the hospital as they processed his bail.

Miller said Sonko has been receiving treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) after being admitted on Monday. He produced letters in court showing Sonko was being managed for uncontrolled hypertension.

“Sonko is actually supposed to be in the hospital at the moment. He is the one who insisted to appear in court this morning despite his ailment. He is here contrary to doctors instructions,” Miller said.

Sonko appeared in court with white straps on his wrists. The straps according to his lawyer were for the purpose of administering intravenous therapy (IV) drugs.

Miller said Sonko had a drip to delivers fluids directly into his vein as he was being brought to court in an ambulance from KNH.

The governor requested to sit down while the rest of the accused persons stood as their names were called out by the court clerk.

Miller subsequently urged the court to issue specific orders that Sonko be taken back to the hospital as they were apprehensive he would be re-arrested and taken to Voi over an assault charge.

Ogoti directed that Sonko processes his bail and be released or his physician in consultation with those at the prison department have him admitted to a hospital outside Kamiti prison if need be as he processes bail.

At the same time, prosecutor Gitonga Riungu said he will be filing a formal application to have Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior and Kipchumba Murkomen out of the proceedings on grounds they are Senators

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