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Uhuru Kenyatta takes on Keter as MP risks losing seat over insults

COUNTIES
By CYRUS OMBATI AND VINCENT MABATUK | January 26th 2015
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and nominated MP Sunjeev Birdi arrive at the CID Headquarters in Nairobi Sunday. [Photo:Boniface Okendo/Standard]

The political future of Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter is in the balance after President Uhuru Kenyatta backed his prosecution after the legislator was captured on video threatening officials over trucks impounded at the Gilgil weighbridge.

In the video, Mr Keter claimed State House Comptroller Lawrence Lenayapa had tried to intervene by calling the officials at the weighbridge but Lenayapa and President Kenyatta denied the allegation.

If prosecuted and found guilty, Keter would automatically lose his seat under the Constitution.

"The Presidency fully supports appropriate legal action. The law will take its course. In appearing to intimidate the public officers, Mr Keter makes a number of claims about other public and State officers at State House Nairobi. These claims are untrue, and amount to nothing more than name-dropping," said the President Sunday.

Keter first rose to public limelight after his vocal criticism of the award of the Standard Gauge Railway project to a Chinese firm, and has been a thorn in the flesh of the Jubilee administration since then.

Sunday, the police, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) officers were set to launch investigations into the alleged incident after the video footage of the first-time MP hurling unprintable insults at officers went viral on social media.

Keter stormed the Gilgil weighbridge station on Saturday night accompanied by nominated MP Sunjeev Kaur Birdi said to be linked to the heavy trucks that were impounded because the driver had no special clearance certificates from the Kenya National Highways Authority (KenHa).

In the video, Keter warns the officers to release the trucks and is overhead questioning why they refused to pick calls from State House Comptroller Lawrence Lenayapa, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Osman Warfa, National Assembly National Security Committee Chairman Asman Kamama and an unnamed OCPD, whom he alleged were trying to sort out the matter.

Above law

Keter is heard bragging that MPs make laws and can break them at will. "Tell me who is the owner of that company... Are they Ugandans subcontracting? In whose interest? We are the ones who legislate. We make laws for this country. No way. Okay, listen. We will reverse the law, but we have to sack the people and we have to reverse the law," Keter shouts.

He goes ahead: "It is so mad. Imagine State House Comptroller... that is the President communicating, he is calling, no one is picking. I called no one responds. I am a Member of Parliament. Chairman of security committee in Kenya, Kamama calls, no one picks. We are about 10 Members of Parliament. You are waiting to hear from who? From God? Jesus Christ to call you? Go away.....We are the ones who make the law. When we want to break it we break it when we want. When the President calls, you have to respect. Whether you are... I don't care. State House Comptroller calls then you say you can't release the lorries?"

"The person who runs the contract will lose it. This is the Hon Keter. I fight big wars. I don't fight small wars. You can even call the media and cover here. I will tell them the story. Tell your boss he is stupid. Even tomorrow there will be no job. Is this Kenya or Uganda... Is this France? Go away. I have to see the President himself. Leave here tomorrow. Handcuff me," Keter shouts.

But State House has since rejected Keter's claims that the Comptroller tried to sweet-talk the weighbridge officials.

A statement from State House said the Presidency "has never, does not and will never support or condone corruption, extortion or abuse of power by any State or public officer".

It added: "The Presidency condemns the incident where several public and/or State officers are alleged to have abused their power and exerted undue pressure on officers lawfully going about their duties in order to evade due process."

It further read: "The Presidency urges responsible Government agencies to ensure that this regrettable incident is swiftly subjected to the due process of law."

Lenayapa termed the claims as crazy and denied calling police or customs officials to demand the release of the vehicles.

"If I called an OCPD or customs officials there let them come forward and say so. I can't do that my friend. I have also complained to the police and anti-corruption commission over this matter and I hope action will be taken," said Lenayapa.

He explained he was in Naivasha on Saturday evening with a group of MPs, including Kamama.

Lenayapa added that he learnt of the video when the President's spokesman Manoah Espisu went to his office seeking his comments and he told him he never talked to anyone regarding the trucks that were impounded.

And in a twist of events, Keter Sunday apologised to Kenyans for his uncouth utterances. Speaking to The Standard, the MP said: "I wish to apologise for the statements I made. It was prompted by the manner in which the weighbridge officials were conducting themselves and wanting Sh20,000 bribe in order to release a truck belonging to my colleague, Sunjeev Birdi."

"When the truck belonging to Birdi was detained, we traveled together using my car to find out why, but instead the officers demanded for money alleging that it did not have proper documents. They should be investigated for detaining vehicles for more than a week," Keter said.

Keter and Birdi later recorded statements at CID headquarters and admitted they had an altercation with the weighbridge officials. The MP said he was responding to numerous complaints from the public on corruption at the bridge.

Twisted defense

"Kenyans have been complaining of corruption at the place and so, we went to help," he said outside CID headquarters.

He refused to comment on the use of the President's name to intimidate the officials to release the vehicle. Birdi admitted that the lorry was hers and had a drilling machine.

Keter said he would present himself to the EACC today to record a statement on the incident.

The deputy officer in charge of the Gilgil station Edward Fondo denied Keter's bribery claim and said the lorry was impounded after its load was categorised as abnormal and it was established that the driver had no special clearance form from KeNHA.

"The vehicle was detained and the driver advised to seek the permit from the highway authority as per the law," he said.

Mr Fondo defended his officers from accusations of wrongdoing and commended them for their professionalism despite being threatened and abused by the legislator.

"All these vehicles you see here were impounded for overloading or because of different reasons and this was not exceptional," he explained.

SGS, a private company, is contracted by the Government to inspect trucks at weighbridges across the country.

And Infrastructure Principal Secretary John Mosonik weighed in on the matter and said: "The incident would appear to follow a pattern of intimidation of ministry officials carrying out their duties by public officers. Only recently, Nairobi Senator Gideon Mbuvi Sonko and his entourage were reported to have stormed the Mtwapa station brandishing guns and demanding the release of a water tanker, supposedly ferrying water to his Vipingo home, which had been impounded for overloading."

DPP Keriako Tobiko ordered the anti-graft agency and police to investigate and take action on Keter.

"I have seen the video and directed EACC and police to take action on the MP and others who were involved for justice. It is unbelievable," he said.

"No one is above the law and the MP is asked to report to us as soon as possible. Actually, we are looking for him and let him surrender for trying to release vehicles that had been detained by police," Acting Inspector General of Police Samwel Arachi said.

EACC spokesman Yasin Amaro said they expect a team to be formed today to pursue the matter.

Leader of Majority in National Assembly Aden Duale said the Jubilee administration does not condone corruption, coercion or intimidation in the name of State House or the President.

"We want the relevant institutions to take action on any misconduct involving any of our members," he said.

Birdi was captured arguing with the police but the officers stood firm saying they have to enforce the law.

Nakuru County commander John Koki said: "I am aware of the harsh exchange of words that took place between the MP and the officers manning the weighbridge but the issue is under KenHA."

Now watch: Alfred Keter's interview on weighbridge saga

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