County ‘seizes operations’ at troubled Mumias sugar factory

Mumias Sugar farmers protest outside the company's premises yesterday. [File, Standard]
A new twist has emerged in an effort to revive Mumias Sugar Company after the local county government announced yesterday it had taken over operations at the ailing miller.

Governor Wycliffe Oparanya announced that his administration and sugarcane farmers will take over management of the struggling sugar firm from the hands of the ‘greedy’ board and current management.

The firm’s board of directors had advertised for bids on lease of the company non-core business assets, a move Oparanya has opposed.

Lease advert

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They include the nucleus estate, a water bottling plant and a power generation plant. Other properties on the list include the Booker Academy schools, housing estate, medical centre, recreational centres and a supermarket.

Oparanya had on May 7 met the company’s management, including the board led by Chairperson Kenneth Ngumbau, in Nairobi where they decided to cancel the advert.

The meeting was attended by 21 people, including creditors owed by the miller.

But on Thursday last week, the miller issued a press advert suspending the leasing bid, which didn’t go well with the county government.

Oparanya, who is the chair of the Council of Governors, said they wanted a full cancelation of the lease bid.

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“Suspending is different from canceling, and we fear this board my go back and lease the properties,” he said.

Farmers from all the 12 sub-counties camped outside the miller’s gate yesterday until they were addressed by the governor.

The farmers passed a vote of no-confidence in the company’s board and called for the county government’s takeover of the factory’s management.

According to Oparanya, farmers had given the county government authority to act as the defender of their plight during a Kisumu meeting.

“I had received a petition from the farmers in Mumias to intervene over the sale of Mumias properties, that’s why I have acted today,” said Oparanya. The county will now form a committee to run the company’s operations, with members drawn from all the stakeholders.

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County askaris

“We will not allow the directors to secretly sell company properties without consulting us. We are willing to go to court if need be,” said Oparanya.

He announced that he will start by installing county askaris at the gate to man the now dormant premises.

“From tomorrow I will bring county askaris to man this gate and nothing will go on until the committee we will form to run the miller is consulted in every decision,” said Oparanya.

The governor alleged that the miller sold over Sh26 million worth of scrap metal early this year.

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“They are selling sugarcane to other millers and recently sold scrap metals and the proceeds were being recorded anywhere,” said Oparanya.

The governor said he will seek a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta and the National Treasury to negotiate a takeover by the Kakamega county government of the 20 per cent stake held by the national government at miller.

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Governor Wycliffe OparanyaMumias Sugar CompanyKakamega County