The axe fell on the first governor as the courts moved to affirm the value of a university degree for holders of the coveted seat.
Yesterday, Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi lost a petition lodged by his predecessor and rival in the election, Ahmed Abdullahi.
This comes as 22 governors battle rivals in the corridors of justice.
High Court Judge Alfred Mabeya sitting in Nairobi, found that Mr Abdi did not possess a university degree and the election was marred with irregularities.
“Abdi was not validly elected to the position of Governor and his election is hereby declared null and void,” ruled Justice Mabeya.
Mr Abdullahi and Mohammed Abdi claimed that the Governor never graduated on the year he claims to have completed university. They presented in court copies of the graduation list with the governor’s name missing.
They also produced minutes obtained from Parliament’s departmental committee on defence and foreign relations on his vetting as a nominee for the position of an Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to show he never graduated.
Abdi defended himself saying he possessed two degrees - a degree in Business Administration and a Post-graduate degree in International Relations. He claimed to have acquired the papers from a Ugandan university.
However, Abdi failed to appear in court to rebut the petitioners claims.
“I have taken note of the fact that although the first respondent had the opportunity to either deny or challenge these facts, he did not do so. The petitioner’s evidence was therefore controverted,” the judge ruled.
A letter from Commission of Higher Education produced in court did not vindicate the embattled Governor from the accusations. The judge noted that the letter dated January 11, 2013 only confirmed that degrees from Uganda University are recognised in Kenya but did not state whether Abdi possessed a degree or not.
Incompetent or negligent
The verdict put the spotlight on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as well as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) for clearing the governor to run for office.
The judge also turned the heat on IEBC for the manner in which it conducted the poll in the county.
“The record of the election through prescribed forms 37A, 37B and 37C was neither accountable nor credible. From the irregularities committed, the third respondent (IEBC) cannot be said to have conducted the elections competently and efficiently,” said Justice Mabeya.
He said from the evidence presented in court, the commission either employed officials who were incompetent or negligent and whose conduct made the election unaccountable and unverifiable.
He slapped the governor with a Sh2 million fine and barred him form contesting in the repeat polls. “IEBC conduct a fresh election in conformity with the Constitution and election Act, 2011,” ruled Mabeya.
The courts have until the end of February to complete the electoral petitions relating to the August 8, 2017 vote.
Already, four governors from Nairobi, Kirinyaga, Meru, Vihiga and Kisumu have survived after the judges either dismissed the cases or their opponents withdrew the petitions.
On Wednesday, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was let off the hook when High Court Judge Justice Msagha Mbogholi, closed the matter after the petitioners Japheth Muroko and Mr Zacheus Okoth withdrew the case.
On Tuesday, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o survived a petition by his rival and the former county boss. Former governor Jack Ranguma however indicated that he will appeal the High Court ruling.
Last year, the courts dismissed the petitions against Vihiga Governor Wilbur Ottichillo and his Kirinyaga counterpart Anne Waiguru.
Former Gichugu MP Martha Karua had challenged the election of Waiguru claiming there were election malpractices.
In Vihiga, the High Court in Kakamega ruled that Dr Ottichilo validly elected with 82,220 votes in a petition challenged by a voter, Mr Hamzah Musuri Kevogo, alleging irregularities.
Last month, former Meru Governor Peter Munya and his Kajiado counterpart David Nkedienye withdrew their petitions after they were persuaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga is battling an election petition filed by former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo while Migori Governor Okoth Obado is facing off in court with former Energy minister Ochilo Ayako.
In Kisii County, two petitions were filed separately contesting the election of Governor James Ongwae.
Ongwae has been accused of allegedly colluding with IEBC and returning officer David Kiprono Towett to recruit eight county employees who could have compromised the results in his favour.
His Nyamira counterpart John Nyagarama is facing off with Jubilee’s Walter Nyambati in court.
Last week, former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar asked Lady Justice Lydia Achode to disqualify herself from hearing the election petition against Governor Hassan Joho over claims of bias and favouritism.
Joho is facing accusations of fake academic papers and election malpractices similar to Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja and Dhado Godana (Tana River).
Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi last year got a reprieve after the High Court dismissed an election petition filed by William Kahindi challenging his win.
The same court is hearing case of Dhado versus former governor Hussein Dado. Former Lamu Governor Issa Timamy has filed a petition at the High Court in Malindi challenging the declaration of Fahim Twaha as governor.
In Machakos, Governor Alfred Mutua has locked horns with Wiper Party’s Wavinya Ndeti.