Suicide bid rocks family in Sh500 million maize scandal

Victoria Rotich, who supplied 212, 000 bags to National Cereal and Produce Board. [Peter Ochieng/Standard]
A woman whose family is accused of illegally receiving Sh500 million from the cereals board is admitted at a Nairobi hospital with depression.

Caroline Chepchumba had threatened to commit suicide, her mother Victoria Rotich told The Standard.

Ms Chepchumba is among suspects wanted by police for their role, if any, in the National Cereals and Produce board (NCPB) scandal, in which influential traders allegedly received more than Sh5 billion at the expense of genuine farmers.

“She wanted to take poison on what she said was frustrations related to the maize issue. My daughter is currently hospitalised because she was branded as a cartel yet the only thing she did was to supply maize to NCPB,” Ms Rotich said.

“My daughter had confided to her close friends that she was going to take poison so that she could ease the pain and humiliation she is going through along with her name being mentioned nationally," she added.

Her illness escalated her family's troubles, as Rotich is also wanted by police. Chepchumba's brother Rodney Kimutai was arrested and released on a police bond, as authorities questioned how the family was paid Sh500 million.

After months of agony following reports that her name had found its way into infamy, Chepchumba reportedly suffered a mental breakdown last week and threatened to ingest poison.

On the advice of a medic, she was taken to a Nairobi hospital, where she is recovering, according to a confidential source at the health facility.

The woman, her siblings; Mr Kimutai and Celestine Chepchirchir and their mother were named by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri when he appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture Committee to respond to farmers' concerns of non-payment for maize supplied.

An audit revealed that Chepchumba supplied 126,962 bags of maize to the Kisumu NCPB depot and was paid Sh96 million. She is still owed Sh223,383,501. Ms Chepchirchir supplied 219,236 bags, pocketing Sh333 million, while their brother pocketed Sh2.2 million.

The family matriarch, a 62-year-old widow, supplied 212,000 bags of the commodity, according to the audit.

It is these payments that have now thrust the family into public limelight, and placed it on the cross-hairs of law enforcement agencies convinced that the family is part of a cartel that fleeced farmers.

In the city hospital, Chepchumba is said to have relapsed into depression upon watching the drama of her brother being arrested in Eldoret, with five NCPB officials and a chief.

The seven were released on a police bond of Sh100,000 each after it was found that the anti-corruption court was not sitting yesterday.

They will be arraigned tomorrow. It was not immediately clear if by then, Chepchumba would have recovered enough to appear in court. “She is good, only that the issue has really affected her. She was fine yesterday (Monday), but after watching herself on TV, she fell back into depression. She is eating, she has a good appetite,” said the hospital source.

"She is faring well, but she is not stable emotionally. In the morning, she was thinking of running away from the facility, but she was told she was going nowhere. We are praying that she will be fine.”

Earlier this week, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission ordered Rotich, her children and other alleged traders believed to have filled the depots with imported maize, to surrender to police.

By last evening, it was not clear if Rotich had surrendered. “What wrong did my family do to the extent that we are being followed up and down? We did not kill anyone, our actions was only to supply maize to the depots, and we did not import the grains from Mexico,” she told The Standard.

In a past interview, the matriarch, described as a village millionaire, claimed she got a Sh110 million loan from the Agricultural Finance Corporation and Sh30 million from Oriental Bank, which she used to purchase maize from other farmers. She claimed she had been engaged in maize supplies since 1982.

We are undertaking a survey to help us improve our content for you. This will only take 1 minute of your time, please give us your feedback by clicking HERE. All responses will be confidential.

Caroline ChepchumbaVictoria RotichNational Cereals and Produce boardNCPB scandalEldoret family