Former prison boss waits for justice 15 years after dismissal

Former Meru Prison boss Daniel M'Ikiugu. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

No sooner had former Meru Prison boss Daniel M'Ikiugu been awarded the Head of State Commendation (HSC) by the late president Mwai Kibaki than he was kicked out of employment.

M'Ikiugu said he was expecting a promotion due to the presidential award, but he was shocked when ejected as a prison boss. Ikiugu was dismissed from the Kenya Prisons Service shortly after winning the HSC.

Though he expected the award by former president Mwai Kibaki for the reforms he had initiated as an officer in charge of Meru Prison and that the award would open more opportunities in his career, the reverse happened.

He said up to this day, he is baffled as to how he lost his job while, on the other hand, the government was applauding him for various projects at Meru prison, which raised sanitation, discipline and community service standards.

"I was happy when I was awarded the HSC and counted it as a major career achievement. I dreamt of heading the prison service to replicate my achievements at Meru prison across Kenya. But I was then baffled after I was sacked, yet I had not committed any crime," he said.

Ikiugu was fired in 2008 after he was accused of inciting warders to strike, a claim he refuted and for which he was not found guilty when arraigned.

Ikiugu, who hails from Kambiti in North Imenti, was arrested and charged with inciting warders to strike in a Nairobi court 15 years ago.

Holding the rank of senior superintendent of prisons then, he was arrested on April 27, 2008, but denied that he had incited warders to strike.

Warders were said to have been agitating for better salaries and working conditions.

He denied he had incited them to strike, and produced evidence that on April 25, the date the said offence was said to have happened, he facilitated the transfer of death-row inmates to the Kamiti prison in Nairobi.

"My warders were working as usual, so the matter of inciting them to strike was non-existent," he said.

Speaking at his home where he now herds his cattle, Ikiugu, who joined the prison service as a cadet in 1985, said his ambition was to become the Commissioner of Prisons, but the sacking put a dead end to that aspiration.

He was relieved when the then Attorney General Amos Wako terminated the case against him.

Then Chief Magistrate Gilbert Mutembei discharged him after the State entered a nolle prosequi on July 14, 2008.

"I feel I was unjustifiably sacked after I had worked hard to improve the state of Meru prison. It was in a crisis when I was appointed officer in charge, with 1,200 male prisoners against a capacity of 350. Sanitation was poor, and inmates suffered diarrhoea," he reminisced.

"I was awarded an HSC by President Kibaki in recognition of the reforms I initiated. I personally initiated the water project, which permanently ended the water shortage. But even after I was unfairly accused of inciting warders and the prosecution entered a nolle prosequi, I was never reinstated".

He says he harbours no bitterness for whoever who sacked him unfairly, after the state dropped charges and the president awarded him the HSC. More than 15 years later, he is waiting for justice.

Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman) Chairperson Florence Kajuju said her office was looking into Ikiugu's issue after going through his file.

"He (Ikiugu) came to us after a lot of frustrations by the Public Service Commission who told him he was retired on public interest, but it was not explained to him what that meant. Unfortunately, after he was taken to court by his accusers the court released him after entering a nolle prosequi," Ms Kajuju said, adding that the man committed no crime at the prison.

She said: "All the same, he was retired, and he demanded his benefits because he retired at 49 years and wanted his benefits for up to 60 years (retirement age) because he was not found to have done any wrong. We are following his case at the moment".