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Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko sent home after Senate upholds his impeachment by Nairobi County Assembly

By Japheth Ogila | December 18th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Senators have voted to uphold the impeachment of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. 

The lawmakers voted on 11 charges related to gross violation of the constitution, abuse of office, gross misconduct and crimes under national law against the governor.

In the first charge of gross violation of the constitution, 27 lawmakers voted YES while 16 voted NO. In the second charge of abuse of office 27 voted YES while 16 voted NO. On the third charge of gross misconduct, 27 voted YES and 16 voted NO. And, in the fourth charge of crimes under national law, 27 voted YES and 16 NO.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr and his Nairobi counterpart Johnson Sakaja abstained.

 Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura concurred with the charges declaring that "Governor Sonko should not have been voted to the office in the first place."  Mwaura said the evidence against the governor on abuse of office was satisfactory.

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However, Senator Murkomen, who opposed the motion faulted the motive of the move arguing the trend would jeopardise devolution.

“This house must rise to the occasion to defend devolution…This house must rise to demonstrate that they have consistency… I beg to oppose.”

Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina fiercely defended Governor Sonko saying most of the charges were not adding up due to insufficient evidence. In this view, he said the motion lacked the merit.

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika argued that the tussle was about Governor Sonko and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) which enjoyed the state-backing, hence, the governor should not be kicked out because of that.

“We know that Governor Sonko is flamboyant and we want to force him to wear suits and sign papers to give kickbacks,” Kihika said.

As for Kitui Senator Enock Wambua, the assembly was merely impeaching the governor dancing ''parte after parte" song.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja assumed a neutral ground albeit with a passionate appeal to save the Nairobi City by making a "judicious decision."

He said, “I have resisted to gleefully dance on anybody’s grave but to sympathise with people of Nairobi. In case this House doesn’t impeach the governor, there is a need for reconciliation. Let’s look at justice, truth and interest of people of Nairobi,” 

Sonko rebuttal

Sonko’s defence team had mounted a robust case rubbishing the charges against the governor. In particular, lead counsel Harrison Kinyanjui questioned the assembly for failing to provide the proof of the 88 lawmakers who signed Sonko’s ouster motion.

This was after Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen asked the Nairobi County Assembly defence team to account for the signatories of the motion, including those who participated virtually.

“All that we are being told is that 88 people voted, who were they? Who voted? You don’t have the threshold for this impeachment. It must fail,” Kinyanjui said.

The lawyer argued that the mover of the motion, Minority Leader Michael Ogada, failed to show their House evidence of public participation as required in the impeachment procedure. He said that the process, therefore, failed the legal threshold and should be dismissed.

“There was no public participation even in the ward of the mover of the impeachment motion. Can he be able to produce even one person who took part in the formation of the impeachment motion?” he posed.

He also argued that the assembly failed to prove that the governor flew his daughter to the US on taxpayers’ money.

“Where is the evidence that the governor’s daughter was moving from this place to the next in the helicopter? None,” he said.

Before Kinyanjui rose for the moment, two defence lawyers that also persuaded the lawmakers to vote against the ouster motion.

Lawyer Wilfred Nyamu accused the assembly defying the court order that stopped the motion making the process illegal. He absolved Sonko of the blames on county fund mismanagement saying no annexures had been provided to show that the governor had contravened the public procurement act or any other law to that effect.

Nyamu argued that the “governor does not unilaterally decisions” but sits with the county committee to execute such duties and therefore cannot bear the burden.

He said, “They county assembly ought to have suspended the motion and obeyed the court order instead of proceeding.

They have the power to summon the governor which they never did. And, impeachment should be the last resort…This process was premature and the assembly and the mover of the motion did not explore all the available options.”

Another lawyer, Evans Ondieki told the House that the assembly failed to serve Sonko with the impeachment motion. He argued that the MCAs were being hypocritical when they said Sonko was barred from his office, while at the same time, they were claiming to have served him notice at his office.

He argued that some of the charges failed to meet the threshold of impeachment. Earlier on, Ndegwa Njiru, the Nairobi County Assembly’s lead counsel, told the Senate that all standards had been met to ouster the governor.

County assembly arguments

The lawyer had taken the governor to task over the stalled Dandora Stadium project which is under investigation as a result of shoddy workmanship by the constructor.

 The Nairobi MCAs had accused the governor of failing the bar of leadership in the oversight of the utilisation of the resources of the county— a mandate bestowed on him by the Constitution.

The lawyer submitted that the governor of Nairobi had turned a blind eye as the contractor breached the contract by sub-standard materials. The assembly held that the company was paid Sh196 million in the transaction but the governor maintained that only Sh80 million was paid.

“I believe wherever Catherine Ndereba is, wherever Kipchoge Keino is, those who are dead are indeed turning in their graves,” Njiru said.

 But in his defence, Sonko replied that he had delegated the duty to his minister in charge of sports, hence the responsibility rested in another docket.

Also, at the centre of the ouster trial was Sh297.5 million that the governor said was not lost. However, Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina sought a clarification whether the money was wired back to the Central Bank of Kenya and was taken to the county development fund.

MCAs had also accused Sonko of using inappropriate language against women to prove his inability to hold public office.

Diverted payments

The governor also found himself in a tight spot after he was accused of using money meant for bursaries to pay lawyers.

Evidence tabled by the assembly had it that the county paid Sh80 million on a Sh5 million invoice to a law firm and another Sh83 million to another.

While the governor did not rebut the evidence, he maintained that the first law firm only received Sh4 million but he did not confirm or deny that the money came from the county.

US trip

After being taken to task on Wednesday over a US trip where he was accused of flying his daughter and wife on a first-class flight at the taxpayers’ expense Sonko responded: “My wife deposited personal cash. The trip was official and genuine because they were both parts of the government delegation confirmed by State House”.

Sonko objected to the accusations of breaching public trust by signing the Deed of Transfer of crucial county functions to the Nairobi Metropolitan Service while drunk as was averred by Nairobi County Assembly Minority Leader Michael Ogada on Wednesday.

 “I was told that I am going to be helped and that we are going to work together with the president. I was not told that the General was going to take over the functions,” Sonko responded.

The governor accused assembly Minority Leader of being used to cause his downfall by moving the motion of impeachment. Sonko said the MCAs used proxy schools to pocket the taxpayers’ money.

He added: "I refused to release some CDF funds because some MCAs had opened fake educational institutions at River Road which was being run by their families and wives."

Sonko further said some cheques were drawn by the Nairobi County government but on investigating, they found that they were ‘forged’.

“Even before I came to office, money meant for poor children was withdrawn from proxies,” he said adding that arrests had been made and suspects arraigned.


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