When a normal day at work lands you in jail
SEE ALSO :Senior county official kills selfOr so they thought. Turns out the man who had initiated the transaction was not the actual owner of the account. Two weeks later, the real account holder noticed missing money from his bank account and alerted the bank. And that is when heads started rolling. The loss was approximately Sh10 million. “It was a big puzzle because more than six bank employees had authorised the withdrawal at each stage until payment. The bank could have proven that the client withdrew the money through CCTV footage but it turned out that security did not have footage.” An investigation commenced, where everyone who had dealt with the transfer was interrogated. People were fired, but Njoroge continued working. “I was waiting to be fired or demoted too. But it didn’t seem to be happening,” she says. While waiting for the other shoe to drop, she got an opportunity to work with another bank.
SEE ALSO :Three arrested over Sh54m fraud“I was upfront about the investigation, but they gave me the job anyway. It was a great opportunity and it felt like I had gotten a second chance in the career I loved,” she says. In January 2009, investigators showed up and arrested her at her new work place. She was taken to court and remanded. “It was all over the media – on newspapers and TV. With charges of theft and conspiracy to defraud a bank, my employer had to let me go,” she explains. She got out on a Sh500,000 cash bail raised by her family and spent the next two and half years defending herself in court. The three charges of theft were dropped, but she was jailed on conspiracy charges. The other shoe eventually dropped…
SEE ALSO :Policeman commits suicide in Dagoretti“It was the most traumatising and toughest moment of my life. I had just given birth to my daughter Umma and Lang’ata Women’s Prison was going to be our home for one year,” she says. Not about to buckle under the pressure of it all, she slowly came to embrace the cards life had dealt her. “While in prison, initially I was in a limbo, wondering what had happened. How could I have been brought to prison after going through a justice system? How could a so-called system of justice be so unjust? That injustice sat in my heart because I knew who I was and what had happened,” she says. She eventually got out of the funk after about three months and decided to focus on what went on in prison. “I noticed several things. First, that 70 per cent of the women there were not actual criminals. Secondly, I was an oddity in prison. They were poor and illiterate. Victims of a broken system. Thirdly, that society had profiled prisoners. That the people who should be in prison are the poor. We had criminalised poverty.”
SEE ALSO :Mugo wa Wairimu detained for 10 daysNjoroge served eight months in prison, released early for good conduct. But her perspective on life had totally changed. “After my imprisonment, the cry of women and girls yearning for an opportunity to live decently could not leave my heart,” she says. And so she founded Clean Start, an organisation that looks for ways to empower women while they are in prison, and acts as a bridge to society. They also coach them, look for employment and business opportunities for them once they are out. “So that when they leave, they transition either back to school or to jobs and business and make sure they do not end up back in prison because they now have a decent and sustainable livelihood,” she says. In 2016, five years after she was jailed, the Court of Appeal vindicated her and declared that she had been wrongfully convicted. “I will never forget those words coming from Judge Fred Ochieng’. To hear him say that I had been wrongfully imprisoned, that the conviction had been unsound and that he was quashing it – it will be forever memorable,” she says. She was also compensated by the state. She marvels at the irony of life, from not having a voice to being a speaker at TED and many other worldwide conventions. “These are things that I would never have thought of or imagined. Clearly, time changes things.”