The process of getting the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) up and running faces further hurdles after two county speakers raised legal concerns.
Last week, LREB Chief Executive Officer Abala Wanga said the bloc had attained legal status after six out of 14 county assemblies ratified the legislation that creates it.
Mr Wanga said this was in line with the provision of Article 32 of the bloc’s constitution, which stipulates that “an agreement shall become binding and effective when ratified through enactment by at least a third of the bloc’s assemblies”.
But yesterday, Siaya County Assembly Speaker George Okode claimed the bloc’s operations may face challenges.
Siaya is one of the eight counties that have not passed the Bill, and Mr Okode said that unless the right procedures were followed, they would keep rejecting it.
Mr Okode said with the other assemblies yet to pass the Bill, it would be an uphill task to operationalise LREB legislation in those counties. He also claimed that any Bills passed by the assemblies could be challenged in court.
“It started with a basic misunderstanding. The process of legislation in the assembly is clear but the LREB architects did not want to listen,” said Okode.
According to Okode, ward representatives were summoned to Kisumu where the bloc’s concept was pushed through. They were then given the draft Bill to pass in their various assemblies.
The speaker said it was procedural for such a Bill to be presented to the assembly through the Executive and submitted to the relevant House committee.
The committee would then subject it to public participation and process it before it was presented to the floor of the House for debate.
“To us, LREB is a foreign entity which is not allowed by law to present such a Bill to the house. Anybody can go to court and invalidate the bloc given that some counties just passed the Bill the way it was,” said Okode.
But even if the bloc was formalised, Okode said it would be difficult to draw money from counties that had not passed the Bill because it would be illegal to fund a body they did not recognised legally.
“You cannot hold us to account using a Bill passed by the Kisumu County Assembly. We are independent entities and people should come to this reality. Furthermore, six counties cannot purport to speak on behalf of 14 yet they are the minority,” he said.
Okode’s sentiments were echoed by his Vihiga counterpart Hasna Mudeizi who said the county had rejected the Bill after it was presented unprocedurally.
“At first it was presented as a motion but we had contention and sent it back to the Executive to work on it and present it as a Bill,” said Ms Mudeizi.
The speaker said the assembly was "a bit lenient" after advising the Executive on what to do, which had seen the Bill presented again before the House. “As we speak, the Bill is before the Trade and Finance Committee. We will give it priority when we resume our sittings so as to pass it before the end of this month,” she said.
But even as the two speakers pointed out the lapses in the presentation of the Bill, a number of county assemblies may have just passed the Bill after receiving it from the LREB.
Assemblies that have ratified the Bill include; Busia, Nyamira, Kakamega, Kisii, Kisumu and Migori. Bungoma, Vihiga, Homa Bay, Siaya, Bomet, Kericho, Nandi and Trans Nzoia are yet to pass it.
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