In a session marred by drama and counter-accusations, lawyers of four beleaguered electoral commissioners yesterday put up a spirited defence as to why their clients do not deserve to be hounded out of office.
The lawyers who appeared before the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) held brief for Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) commissioners Juliana Cherera, Justus Nyang'aya, Francis Wanderi and Irene Masit who are facing ouster bid.
Four petitions have been filed to remove the IEBC officials from office.
The petitions by the Republican Liberty Party, Rev Dennis Thumbi, Geoffrey Langat and Steve Owuor accuse the commissioners of alleged violation of the Constitution, gross misconduct and incompetence during elections.
The lawyers raised preliminary objections, arguing that JLAC lacks the jurisdiction to hear the petitions and that the commissioners enjoyed immunity as public officers- thus the process was unconstitutional.
“A complaint concerning misconduct should be addressed by a committee of Parliament responsible for the ethics of members. The relevant committee to deal with this matter is the Committee for Privilege and not JLAC,” argued lawyer Jotham Arwa who was representing Nyangaya.
“The complaint should have first been taken to IEBC then the Public Service Commission before being forwarded to Parliament," he added.
Arwa tore into the petitions, saying they were not backed by evidence thus presenting a hurdle on their part as they could not “cross-examine” evidence not presented to them. He also faulted the petitions for solely relying on an affidavit by IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati.
Lawyer Donald Kipkorir, representing commissioner Masit, criticised the petition by the Republican Liberty party, saying it was filed on behalf of the party but signed by Zacharia Matayo- the chair.
“There is no seal of the party neither is there evidence to show that the party sat to pass such a resolution. Further, none of the petitions is supported by an affidavit. You cannot base a petition on mere statements,” said Kipkorir.
Lawyer Apollo Mboya, who was representing Cherera, dismissed the petition by Rev Thumbi that it fell flat on account of the immunity granted to the commissioners by law.
He also observed that the petitions by Geoffrey Langat and Steve Owuor referred to a non-existent commissioner- Juliana Cherere.
“If at all this committee was to be seized of this petition, there is a procedure that should have been followed,” said Mboya.