Kenya: Sonko Clutches at Straws as His Troubles Mount

The woes of embattled Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko ballooned yesterday as he fought to retain the seat after Thursday’s impeachment.

A day after the County Assembly voted to send him packing, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani yesterday issued a circular authorising the release of money to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), an outfit the governor has fought.

Equally, the Senate formally received the impeachment notice against Mr Sonko, setting the stage for a possible end of a dramatic political career. Speaker Ken Lusaka yesterday confirmed receipt of the letter from his County Assembly counterpart Ben Mutura.

“Pursuant to Article 181 of the constitution … the Nairobi County Assembly at its sitting held on Thursday December 3 at 2.30pm considered and adopted a motion for the removal of the governor Mike Sonko from office by impeachment, which motion was carried by a vote supported by 88 members out of 122… I hereby forward to you the said resolution of the County Assembly for your further action,” Mr Mutura wrote.

It promises to be a long-drawn fight that could even end up in the highest court in the land. But those keen to see Mr Sonko pushed to oblivion have lined up a number of options they seem sure would get the job done. In the event of a by-election for instance, they plan to have the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) decline to give him the much-needed clearance to defend the seat, which many reckon he could recapture, given his popularity among the city voters.

CS Yatani directed Governor Sonko to release funds due to the NMS in what promises to bring to an end months of impasse over funding for the body led by Maj-Gen Mohammed Badi.

The timing of the letter may, however, be muddled in the ongoing impeachment debate, as Sonko’s men feel he was being targeted because of his reluctance to release the money to Maj-Gen Badi.

Mr Yatani said a framework to guide the funding of the NMS has been developed paving the way for Mr Sonko to transfer funds from the County Revenue Fund (CRF) account to NMS.

“The purpose of this letter therefore is to forward to you the framework and request you to ensure adherence to the requirements,” said Mr Yatani in a letter dated November 30 addressed to Maj-Gen Badi and Mr Sonko and copied to Attorney-General Paul Kihara, Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o and NMS deputy director-general Kang’ethe Thuku.

The NMS has not received funding from Nairobi County government for the four transferred functions of health, transport, public works, utilities and ancillary services, county planning and development services because of the lack of a legal framework to allow for the transfer. This is said to have annoyed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who feels the governor has been out to sabotage his legacy projects.

In September, Maj-Gen Badi’s request to the Treasury to release the funds to pay the 6,852 county staff was declined by CS Yatani, who said there was no legal framework in place to facilitate such a transaction.

“The proposed framework takes into account the above-stated constitutional and legal provisions as contained in CARA, 2020 as well as the provisions of the Deed of Transfer of Functions,” said Mr Yatani yesterday.

Critics say the governor opened too many warfronts, on one end fighting his own MCAs and NMS on the other. But it is the open fight he recently picked with President Kenyatta that is said to have sealed his fate, with the President’s men vowing to teach him one last lesson.

While the efforts to kick the governor out were set in motion about two years ago, we gathered that his decision to cede key functions to NMS slowed down the forces against him, who were ready and willing to reckon with a less powerful Sonko in the capital.

Earlier, there had been indications that tapping into the handshake dividend he has with Mr Kenyatta, Mr Sonko had reached out to ODM leader Raila Odinga to intercede for him, but the county chief dismissed the reports as pure fabrications.

The embattled governor is vowing to fight back. Other than the plan to challenge the impeachment in court on the grounds that a number of lawmakers claim their signatures were forged, Governor Sonko is also putting up a detailed defence in the event he is summoned by the Senate to plead his case.

Part of the move is also to discredit the mover of the impeachment motion Michael Ogada, whom among others, he accuses of recently receiving in excess of Sh800,000 in per diem to travel to Dubai for committee business but failed to attend. “Payments from the exchequer were made to the respective bank accounts of the intended participants to facilitate their travel, as demonstrated in the copies of documents attached herein. However, the chairman of the budget and appropriations committee Robert Mbatia, his vice-chairman Michael Ogada alongside a few other members never travelled despite having been facilitated with the public funds, “Mr Sonko says in a letter to the DCI.

The governor also suffered a setback yesterday after his bid to halt the ongoing criminal prosecution for the Sh357 million corruption in the county government was dismissed by a Machakos court.

In a petition filed at the High Court in Machakos, Mr Sonko wanted a declaration that the trial was prejudicial and a violation of his fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the constitution. He wanted the court to declare that once the rights to fair trial have been violated, there is no cure to such breaches and he is entitled to an acquittal notwithstanding the nature of evidence against him.

The governor also wanted orders prohibiting the chief magistrate Milimani Anti-Corruption Court from hearing or presiding over three graft cases in which he is charged alongside others, including contractors of the county government.

But Justice George Odunga declined to issue the orders and directed that the petition be transferred to Nairobi Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Division.

+ “That division is competent to refer the matter to the Chief Justice as sought as well as to determine whether the judges mentioned can excuse themselves from hearing the matter,” ruled justice Odunga.

Additional reporting by Joseph Wangui and Collins Omulo.

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