Firm linked to fake fertiliser calls for arrest of Linturi, NCPB boss

Business
By Josphat Thiong'o | Apr 24, 2024

 

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi chats with Chandrabhan Chimurkar, the General Manager KEL Chemicals Ltd. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The management of a company at the centre of a fake fertiliser scandal probe by Parliament has called for the arrest and interrogation of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) Managing Director Joseph Kimote.

KEL Chemicals has written to the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Amin Mohammed Ibrahim seeking the arrest of the Linturi and Kimote over what they termed as attempts to distort the truth and intimidation.

“We feel inclined to suggest that as you assess individual responsibility in the light of an overall evaluation of complicity, the conduct and involvement of Mr Franklin Mithika Linturi, the CS Ministry of Agriculture and Mr Joseph Kimote, the MD National Cereals and Produce Board, should be scrutinized,” reads the letter in part.

According to the letter drafted by KEL chemicals’ lead lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, the CS and NCPB boss had engaged in attempts to distort the account of what transpired, and to present a counter-narrative “whose end was to incriminate KEL chemicals through intimidation and threats and, to absolve other parties that have been adversely mentioned in the scandal.”

“You will appreciate the extent of the inability of the two public officers to properly understand and appreciate the true accounts of facts and exert themselves within the confines of the law. They put a strain on the law in a manner that furthered impunity through manifest lack of fairness, impartiality and outright manipulation,” said Abdullahi.  

A week ago, Linturi ordered for the immediate closure of Thika-based KEL Chemicals Company for allegedly supplying the government with 3,000 bags of ‘substandard’ fertiliser.

“I have directed the withdrawal of the manufacturing license for the KEL Chemicals Factory and its immediate closure pending a probe by our investigative authorities,” he said.

His directive followed a visit to the manufacturing plant as part of the ongoing probe into the fake fertiliser scandal.

And while appearing before the National Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture, KEL Chemical’s chief operations officer Devesh Patel implicated senior government officials in the scandal. He dragged the names of officials attached to the office of the President, Kenya Bureau of Standard (Kebs), NCPB and the Ministry of Agriculture.  

He told the committee how he was allegedly lured to two meetings in one day by senior government officials whose intention, he said, was to coerce him to take the blame for the fake fertiliser in the country.

Patel also decried what he termed as harassment and intimidation by “a collective effort of certain members of the executive”.

On April 4, 2024, KEL Chemical’s chief operations officer confessed to having received a call from Loraine Karani who directed that he appears at the NCPB headquarters at 3.30 pm. On arrival, he met Ngetich and NCPB Managing Director. He claimed that he was threatened to refund the money paid for the supply of the NPK fertiliser which had already been paid by Mems.

Patel and Ngetich were then informed to go to the Office of the President for a meeting at around 5.00pm. On arrival at Harambee House, they were asked to wait outside as Kimote held a meeting with individuals that Patel later identified as Agriculture PS Kipronoh Ronoh, Kebs Managing Director Esther Ngari, NCPB boss Kimote and Ministry of Trade, Investments and Industry PS Juma Mukhwana.

During the meeting, Patel gave events surrounding the manufacture and supply of the fertiliser and explained the company’s due diligence measures.

“The Head of Public Service Felix Koskei walked into the meeting at around 7.00 pm and asked me to recant the statements on the circumstances surrounding the distribution of the fertiliser,” he claimed.

The KEL Chemical’s chief operations officer also alleged that the Kebs MD Ngari kept saying, “You are the people making substandard fertiliser. I want you to punish them Mr Koskei. I’m coming to close your factories.”

“Mr Koskei thereafter asked for our arrest with Mr Ngetich and we were taken to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Kiambu. We were arrested without being informed of the reason, without legal representation and instructed to write a statement under duress. We were later taken to Muthaiga police station until April 5,” stated the operations manager.

Patel further submitted that on April 6, 2024, he was taken to KEL chemicals plant in Thika by officers from Muthaiga Police Station and officers from DCI. Officials from KRA were also present.

“After two hours of the group moving around the plant, the DCI team seized the fertiliser of 3,390 bags of 50 kgs each. At around 6.35 pm, I was taken back to Muthaiga Police Station and released on a bond of Sh100,000,” he submitted.

The development is yet another twist in what is now turning into a circus characterized by the governments’ double-speak, blame-shifting and farmers’ suffering. Interestingly, no arrests have been made yet even as farmers continue to toil in agony and await the government’s compensation.

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