There is anxiety among top prisons commanders after the extended term of the Commissioner General Isaiah Osugo came to an end on Wednesday.
Absence of communication from State House over whether there will be a change of command has created a perceived power void in the giant department responsible for guarding over 200,000 inmates.
There is uncertainty on whether President Uhuru Kenyatta might once again extend his tenure.
“I don’t know, I am not aware of anything,” said Interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka when The Saturday Standard sought clarification about the goings-on at Magereza House.
“Let me ask the commissioner and I will get back to you,” he assured us but never called again.
Osugo, 62, is among few top officers inherited from President Mwai Kibaki's administration.
Meanwhile, an all-out scramble for Osugo’s lucrative position which began at the beginning of the year continues to heat up with each coming day as top commanders jostle to get appointed to a post that seems so near yet too far.
The scramble to replace Osugo has created its fair share of power drama since his contract was extended. Last year, he transferred 53 top officers working under him.
And last week, Assistant Commissioner General of Prisons Wanini Kireri who was among those tipped to take over was moved to the Prisons Training College in Ruiru.
In line to replace Osugo is his assistant Benjamin Njoga, the deputy commissioner general of Prisons and the most senior officer in the service. Njoga is a career prisons officer, who joined the service in 1983 and has served in various capacities, including duty officer, officer in charge and regional commander of prisons.
Also Ms Kireri, the most senior woman in the department, had barely lasted a year at the Magereza House headquarters after being promoted from her position as Nairobi Regional Prisons Commander in February 2017.
The other officer of a similar rank is the Director of Prison Enterprises Josephat Ituka who is also waiting on the sidelines.
Their hopes may, however, end up in smoke if the President gives Osugo one more year.
If he does so, it could raise controversy because a court had advised the Executive to work on a succession plan in February even as it threw out a case challenging the prison chief’s extension of tenure.
“The court however would frown upon a further extension of the contract upon its expiry. It is hoped that the state and Kenya Prison’s service will use the two years to manage their succession for continuity,” ruled Justice Jorum Abuodha on February 18.
Activist Okiyah Omtatah had in August 2016 gone to court seeking to reverse an extension of Osugo’s tenure after he clocked the retirement age. The Government’s policy is that no civil servant should work past retirement age
Plucked by retired President Mwai Kibaki from the then Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in July 2008, the prisons boss is currently the longest reigning chief of a security department in the country, having clocked 10 years.
The media-shy career detective prefers operating under the radar.