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Linturi's 'sour love' affair clouds impeachment hearing

 

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi became the first Cabinet Secretary to defend himself against an ouster motion in parliament. Linturi, who appeared before the 11-member select committee, is accused of gross constitutional violation and gross misconduct.

Bumula MP Jack Wamboka, in his opening statement, accused Linturi of violating various articles under the constitution by approving the procurement and distribution of fake fertilizer by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Wamboka said the Cabinet Secretary allegedly engaged in abuse of office and going against sections of the penal code following revelations that the he ordered the closure of KEL chemical companies and declared it a crime scene following the company’s Chief Operating Officer Devesh Patel’s refusal to participate in a staged press conference where he (Patel) was to take the fall for the fake fertiliser.

Under the provision of gross misconduct, the CS is accused of getting into a public spat with journalists who unearthed the fraudulent fertiliser scam, storming into manufacturing plants and purporting to revoke licenses all without conducting proper investigations or providing any clear policy decisions from the ministry on the matter.

He is also cited for failure to demonstrate professionalism in carrying out duties “in a manner that maintains public confidence in the integrity of the office, amounts to gross misconduct contrary to section 11(a) of the Leadership and Integrity Act.”

Further, the CS was outed for submitting false information to a Departmental committee of the National Assembly on the type of fertilizer distributed to farmers and its purpose, contrary to section 29 of the Leadership and Integrity Act, Cap 185C.

Linturi in his defence, however, turned the spotlight on his former wife and Aldai MP Maryanne Kitany claiming she is behind his woes after they fell out. The ouster motion quickly degenerated into a theatre of lovers scorned.

“Whatever I have gone through for a number of years and what is manifesting itself here is not anything I would want to wish on any human being. It has been a long journey and very painful. When I thought I had gone through that kind of trauma, the motion here has brought up the same stories I have tried to fight for years,” said Linturi with teary eyes.

“When Khaminwa (John) tries to trivialise this matter it pains me. There is nowhere in the history of the judiciary that a divorce matter has ever been done or conducted live on air like mine and that is the reason when Muthomi Thionkulu tries to contextualise this matter then people don’t take it seriously.  When counsel for the mover accepts before this committee that they had a discussion with the person that they are referring to as a proxy (Kitany), one wonders what was being discussed,” he wondered.

The CS then embarked on a spirited campaign to convince the MPs he was aware of the plight of the farmers affected by the fake fertilizer and that he had taken “corrective measures” to rectify the situation.

 “I really know the pain the farmers are going through. Having interacted with the few bags of fertilizer I really feel for them. I have taken corrective measures from the ministry and those people that I feel were culpable have already taken plea. As you look into this matter, look at it on the basis of evidence and fact. I am ready to defend myself,” observed Linturi.

He pointed out that at the time of taking over office, the country and the ministry were facing a food crisis but noted that within the first year in office, they had now been able to produce 67 million bags.

“This (ouster motion) is an occupational hazard that comes with the job I’m doing. I have no option. I will soldier on,” he added.

And through his lawyers Muthomi Thiankolu and Boniface Mawira, Linturi stated that it was his “jilted lover” who had hatched a revenge to get him out of office.

Face behind motion

“The honourable member for Aldai is the real face behind this impeachment motion. Even the senior counsel said he met her yesterday evening and she was telling him that she does not have a child with Linturi. What is the motive of senior counsel meeting her if she does not have a hand in this? This motion is perpetuated by malice and vendetta,” said Mawira.

Thiankolu also moved to pour cold water on allegations that Linturi was to blame for the fertiliser mess and that he had given authorisation for its procurement.

Bumula MP Jack Wamboka, the mover of the impeachment motion against Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi, makes his remarks before the Select Committee on May 8, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

“It is clear that NCPB is a semi-autonomous agency with its own board and bureaucracies. It is also legally immunised from the ministerial control being alleged,” he remarked.

He went on to point out that no evidence in the form of a document had been presented to show that indeed Linturi gave the green light for the purchase of fake fertiliser.

The lawyer was responding to claims made by Wamboka who had poked holes into Linturi’s argument that his (Wamboka) case was solely based on the fact that Linturi’s ex-wife had a score to settle.

“I have looked at the responses by the CS and it is nothing short of a love letter by a jilted lover. These are grievous matters of national importance to be reduced to love matters but it seems he has reduced them to love matters. “Ukiachwa achika (When someone leaves you, accept and move on),” Wamboka said.

Adding: “It is unfair to keep dragging the good lady Marianne Keitany into this matter. She has the right to accept or decline your advances.”

His lead counsel John Khaminwa pleaded with the select committee not to trivialise the matter.

Khaminwa termed the allegations against Linturi as a portfolio corruption which he said had been perpetuated in previous regimes much to the disadvantage of Kenyans.

“Perception is important, strictly speaking, in this case, one does not have to need evidence at all. It is a case that can depend on perception. If you ask mama mboga what she thinks of Linturi I am sure she will say that he should have resigned long ago as a matter of principle,” he said.

Counsel Lady Asha- as introduced by Khaminwa- faulted the defence’s response noting that it had chosen to focus on trivialities rather than address the key issue which was the fake fertiliser scandal.

“The issue before us is not about Linturi as a person but the plight of farmers. The CS was responsible for directly appointing a board to deal with the subsidy program but by not doing that, he put Kenyans in the precarious position we are in,” she said.

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