I'm the boss in Tharaka Nithi, says Kagwima

Tharaka Nithi Deputy Governor Francis Kagwima. [Courtesy]

There was confusion at the Tharaka Nithi County offices on Thursday after Deputy Governor Francis Kagwima said he had taken over the running of county affairs.

This was a day after Governor Muthomi Njuki was released on bond by a Nairobi court after denying corruption-related charges. The court barred him from stepping into the county headquarters.

Kagwima swiftly moved to take over the county leadership, saying he was doing so in an acting capacity.

"The Constitution and the law governing devolution say if one is charged in a court of law, they have to step aside and can only come back if cleared,” Kagwima said.

A group of residents gathered outside the county government headquarters where they sang gospel songs, prayed for Kagwima and blessed his new role as acting governor.

The deputy governor said the only functions he would not perform were the hiring and firing of staff, adding that he will operate from his own office because the governor’s office might be a ‘scene of crime’.

Njuki was arrested Monday and charged with the irregular award of a Sh34.7 million solid waste incinerator tender.

After his release, Director of Communication Simon Kobia released a statement stating that Njuki was still allowed to continue discharging his mandate as the county boss.

"The governor was released on cash bail and barred from working from his Kathwana office. This means that HE Muthomi Njuki is still the governor of Tharaka Nithi County and he is allowed to continue executing his mandate as stipulated in the County Governments Act 2012 Section 30 (2)(a), that allows him to diligently execute the functions and exercise the authority provided for in the Constitution and legislation," read the statement.

Remain calm

"It continued: "We advise the people of Tharaka Nithi to remain calm and respect the decision made by the court to create an enabling environment for the case to continue well as required by law."

Njuki also encouraged residents to continue seeking services from county government offices during office hours or through a 24-hour toll-free number.

But Kagwima said he was in charge and would be inspecting ongoing development projects and initiating new ones. "He (Njuki) has stepped aside until his case is over. He cannot be able to accept the truth."

Kagwima and his boss have not been on good terms recently, with the deputy critical of how Njuki was running the county and accusing him of not consulting other leaders in the region's affairs.