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Thrown under the bus? Governors fail to defend Sonko after arrest

By Standard Team | December 9th 2019
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is brought to Milimani law courts today morning to face corruption charges.[Standard]

Beleaguered Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s woes escalated Sunday after the Council of Governors (CoG) appeared to abandon him.

The body that brings together all the 47 county bosses failed to openly defend Sonko over corruption allegations facing him as it has done in the past with other governors facing similar charges.

Instead, the council chaired by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya called for an emergency meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss the fate of Nairobi that has been thrown into a leadership crisis following Sonko's arrest in Voi last Friday.

In a statement just hours before Sonko is arraigned in the High Court to face charges of facilitating and/or benefiting from irregular procurement and payments amounting to Sh357 million, the council only said it was “monitoring” the unfolding situation.

The decision by the council to issue a statement two days after the chaotic and dramatic arrest of Sonko on Friday further speaks volumes about their stance on the matter.

“Following the arrest and detention of Mike Mbuvi Sonko, the Council of Governors is monitoring and consulting widely on the unfolding situation,” said the statement.

“We are, however, aware of the uniqueness of the County Government (of Nairobi) and therefore we shall reach out to the president to convene an emergency summit to address the evolving situation,” the statement added.

The decision by the CoG to call for a summit with the president could, however, have been informed by the unique nature of the county having no deputy governor.

The substantive County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi is currently facing rebellion from a section of jubilee Members of County Assembly in what has seen chaotic scenes play out at City Hall on several occasions.

Polycarp Igathe resigned from the post in a huff over differences with his boss. In subsequent months, Sonko nominated lawyer Miguna Miguna currently living in Canada to replace Igathe, a move that was rejected by MCAs. He later resorted to social media, parading several women candidates for the slot. He asked his followers to nominate their favourite candidate in a process that was never concluded.

The constitution stipulates that in the absence of a governor, a deputy takes over, and in the event the two are absent the Speaker takes charge for 60 days pending an election.

In the past arrests, the council has come out strongly to defend the accused county bosses and even picked wars with the investigating agencies for allegedly being used to wage political battles with certain governors.

When Busia Governor Sospeter Ojamong was arrested and arraigned over corruption-related charges in June last year, for instance, then chairman of the council Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok claimed the fight had been weaponised to target certain county bosses. "The institutions that are established by the Constitution and other statutes to deal with mismanagement of public funds must undertake their mandate with integrity and the war on corruption must not be stained with political interests," said Nanok at a press briefing held at the council’s headquarters.

The council even demanded that the governors be handed immunity just like the president to shield them from arrest while still in office.

“The best practice in jurisdictions that are devolved is that the heads of both levels of government have immunity from civil and criminal proceedings while they are in office,” Nanok said.

The council had castigated the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations for engaging in sideshows by dramatically arresting county bosses in a humiliating manner.  

During the arrest of Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, Oparanya came out to defend him, demanding that they be treated with decorum.

“We don’t condone corruption and we are ready to fight it…but the way Waititu was arrested, being frogmarched, was so inhuman, especially someone of his stature,” said Oparanya.

“Why can’t they have decency? Just summon the governor, tell him you wish to go to his house for a search instead of all these dramas in front of the media,” he said.

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