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MPs question intent of gazette notices printed at night

POLITICS
By Moses Nyamori | May 20th 2021
Ousted Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi Mahamud.[Courtesy]

A night gazette notice on the removal from office of impeached Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi Mohamud has triggered heated debate and claims of possible abuse of the government printer.

Some lawmakers threatened to come up with a law restricting the government printer to operate within the normal working hours.

A gazette notice by Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka on the declaration of the office of governor, Wajir County dated May 17, implied that it was prepared immediately after the House voted to impeach him or even earlier.

The vote by Senators in support of the 11-member select committee which uphold the charge on gross violation of the constitution, was done some minutes past 9pm and by midnight, the gazette notice by the Speaker was out.

Another notice on the subsequent swearing-in of Deputy Governor Ahmed Ali Muktar to take over as the county boss was also issued in the wee hours of the night, raising concerns on the true intent of the House leadership to complete the process as provided for in Article 182 of the constitution in record speed.

But this is not the first time the issue of the night gazette notices has emerged, it was a concern in the 11th Parliament but the 12th Parliament seems to have outdone itself.

The Senate in particular, in a record one year, has sent packing three governors through impeachment and ensured their chance of seeking redress is denied through the night gazette notices.

A similar scenario played out in the impeachment of Governor Mike Sonko (Nairobi) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) after notice of their impeachments were issued at night immediately they were ousted from office.

“Pursuant to Articles 181, 182 (1) (e) and 182 (2) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, section 33 (7) of the County Governments Act, 2012, sections 5, 6, 11 (1), 12 (1) and 16 (1) (a) of the Assumption of the Office of Governor Act, 2019 and further to Gazette Notice No. 4702 dated the May 17, 2021, by the Speaker of the Senate and in accordance with the provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, it is notified for information of the general public that the swearing-in ceremony of Ahmed Ali Muktar, as the Governor of Wajir County, shall take place on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, at Wajir County Headquarters, starting at 10am,” states the gazette notice signed by the Chairperson of the Assumption of the Office of Governor Committee, Abdullahi Maalim.

Now, the lawmakers are planning to rein in the government printer, when in less than one week, Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura sought reprieve in the High Court after Speaker Lusaka in a surprise move, gazetted his removal from office, paving way for his replacement.

These senators who despite pleading with the Speaker to consider his decision, resolved that he could only be saved by the court, which has the powers to suspend implementation of the gazette notice and subsequent replacement by Senator Sammy Leshore as Jubilee revoked his nomination.

Yesterday, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said there was need to regulate operations of the government printer to prevent possible abuse by people with vested interests.

He noted that the rush to publish the notice was being abused to block aggrieved people from exploiting available appeal mechanism.

For instance, yesterday the impeached governor obtained court orders stopping the swearing-in of his deputy as the county boss. But the order was obtained after Muktar had already been sworn in.

“We may need legislative reforms because in future we may set a dangerous precedence where someone may just decide to sign gazette notice at night to settle scores,” said the lawmaker.

“We need legislation that will restrict the government printer from working beyond the official working hours. Like in the case of the Wajir Governor, he has obtained an order but it is overtaken by events because his deputy has already assumed office,” he added.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said there was no law prescribing specific time for the operations of the government printer, making it prone to abuse.

“There is no specific time and no law regime to regulate the government printer. Previously the Kenya Gazette was published on Friday. Special issues were few and far between. Currently, it is a free for all. Catch me if you can operation,” said Kilonzo Jnr.

“It is being misused, people circumventing all legal challenges and in some cases backdated or prepared in advance. It is an opaque operation with no form of control or accountability,” he added.

But Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ said there was no problem if the office operates for 24 hours so long as it is acting on legitimate decisions.

Kajwang’ said that the rush to issue the notice was to prevent instances of a vacuum in the office of the governor or any other public office.

“Once the Senate decision is upheld, for purposes of continuity of the county government, is just good that it goes out quickly,” he said.

“I don’t think there is something wrong to stop government printer operating 24 hours. The government printer working for 24 hours is not an abuse so long as what he is acted upon is legitimate,” he added.

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