Governor Mike Sonko’s handover of Nairobi County functions has exposed new divisions in government, with some senior officials in a high-level team questioning the execution of the agreement.
Two officials of the Multi-Agency Team (MAT), which is chaired by Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, said they were surprised at the AG’s presence at State House during the signing of the deal, yet he had been party to MAT’s opinion that Sonko’s nomination of a deputy governor was a violation of his bail terms.
The officials argued that if MAT was of the view that by nominating a deputy the governor had exercised his executive powers against a court order barring him from office, then signing away county functions to the national government was an even broader discharge of executive powers.
“I am surprised that the AG was present at State House during the signing of the transfer of functions, yet he chairs the Multi-Agency Team dealing with Governor Sonko's graft case,” said a senior official.
“MAT approved the decision to challenge Sonko’s decision to nominate a deputy, which in its opinion violated the bail terms by discharging the executive mandate outside office, yet he did the same in the presence of the chair (AG).”
Yet another official who sits in the team said: “His (AG’s) presence at State House as the government chief legal adviser to the president portrays negatively on the graft purge and demonstrates that the governor is still a relevant man in this country, despite facing charges related to graft and being out on bail terms.”
On Tuesday, at a ceremony witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, Mr Sonko and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa transferred the capital city’s Health, Transport, Planning and Public Works dockets to the national government.
The Deed of Transfer will come into effect in 21 days from the date of the execution, and shall be in force for a renewable period of 24 months.
Yesterday, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said: “It will be interesting to get the verdict of the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji on this matter. Previously they have opposed any move by charged governors to sign anything.”
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) said he has been vindicated on his position that barring a governor from accessing public office did not mean he could not exercise executive functions.
“Finally, the national government through its chief legal adviser agrees that barring a governor from accessing office does not make him less of a governor. He has full powers to act as a governor. I believe my big brother, the DPP, now agrees with us,” Mr Murkomen said.
Sonko faces an impeachment motion at the Nairobi assembly after Makongeni Ward MCA Peter Imwatok tabled 16 grounds for his ouster.
A source told The Standard that the move to hand over key dockets to the national government might have bought Sonko some breathing space as it could likely see him retain control of City Hall and scuttle the motion to impeach him.
This is because if he were to be impeached without a substantive deputy in place, it would lead to an election that would collapse the deal with the national government.
“The underlying tone of this deal is that Sonko would relinquish the main revenue-earning dockets of the county and in return, the national government will ensure that the graft cases against him are taken slow,” claimed a source.
“He might also use this to forestall his looming impeachment by using the deal to convince President Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga to whip their MCAs into dropping the impeachment bid,” added the source at City Hall, who sought anonymity.
But Mr Imwatok insisted yesterday that the assembly will continue with the impeachment process as planned, arguing that the takeover of key functions by the national government bolsters their case against him.
“We appreciate the president because he has also proven to us that Sonko is incompetent. The only justice that Sonko can do to the city now is hand over all the dockets and resign by Tuesday next week before we proceed to impeach him,” said Imwatok.
Embakasi Ward MCA Ken Obuya, a supporter of the governor, however said the impeachment motion would not go through, and asked ODM and Jubilee parties to pronounce themselves on the ouster bid.
“ODM should tell us whether we should prioritise a gubernatorial by-election or realisation of a successful BBI referendum. By impeaching the governor, Jubilee will also be committing suicide,” said Mr Obuya.
The fate of the county executives in charge of the Health, Transport, Planning and Public Works departments now lies with the national government.
Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi said if the taking over is upheld by the courts, then the government gets to decide whether to retain the county personnel in the affected departments or redeploy them.
“There, however, are issues of whether Sonko in his current capacity can get into such an agreement, whether it can be developed without the input of the assembly and also without the consultation of Nairobi residents, but if it holds, then the government has the power to decide the CECs’ fate,” said Mr Mkangi.
Health executive Hitan Majevdia was happy with the move and optimistic the government would retain Sonko’s cabinet.
“For the health department the move was a blessing because we were facing so many challenges. This way we will also help the president achieve his universal healthcare deal.”
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