Lake region closes in on bloc dream as law demand is met

The Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) is set to become the first legal entity of its kind after it met minimum constitutional threshold last week.

On Friday, Busia County became the sixth of the 14 member counties to ratify the Lake Region Economic Bloc Act which creates the economic zone, marking the final stage of legalising the bloc.

The breakthrough now paves way for the gazettement of the bloc which will see it draw funds from member counties to operate in a legally binding agreement.

The move comes as the Ministry of Devolution is set to launch the national policy on regional blocs during the sixth Devolution Conference which begins today in Kirinyaga County.

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Article 32 of the Act, which creates the bloc, stipulates that, “an agreement shall become binding and effective when ratified through the enactment by at least a third of the bloc’s assemblies”.

“We had to put a timeline and a minimum threshold for passing the bill, because waiting for all the 14 counties to pass it would have taken a lot of time, and the bloc needed to proceed,” said the bloc’s Chief Executive Officer Abala Wanga.

Delays to pass the bill by some counties, he said, were caused by the different timelines the various assemblies had in processing the bill.

Wanga yesterday announced that he would be presenting the ratified Acts to Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugine Wamalwa during the Devolution Conference.

Legal requirement

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Mr Wamalwa will then gazette the bloc, making it the first of its kind to meet the legal requirement, half a decade since the idea of its creation was mooted.

Lack of this legality, Wanga said had hindered the bloc’s operations, as member counties had no mandate to fund its projects and activities.

“We can now register our joint ventures with the attorney general, Treasury and the controller of budget. LREB as a legal entity will now be able to achieve its dreams for prosperity for close to 14 million people living in the region. The bloc will now be legally constituted with all operational organs working to deliver on its flagship projects,” said Wanga.

Other counties which have also ratified the act are Nyamira, Kakamega, Kisii, Kisumu and Migori. The remaining eight counties are said to be in the process of doing ratifying it since all the assemblies already have the bill before them.

On March 26, last year, all the 14 governors of the member counties assented to the bill to commit their counties, which paved way for the presentation of the Act to the assemblies.

And with the minimum number of counties ratifying the act, all the 14 counties are now bound to be members, and by the decisions of the bloc, including projects approved, and participating in joint projects.

Some of the bloc’s flagship projects include; formation of a regional bank, reviving marine transport and revitalising the sugar industry.

Wanga yesterday hinted that the bloc had already identified a commercial bank, which it will either acquire fully or partly, with the aim of fully taking it over in future.

“The discussions on the bank are at advanced stages, and very soon the announcement will be made by the bloc’s top organs,” he said, adding that some member counties had already remitted a total of Sh800 million, which is banked it its fixed deposit account.

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