AG Muturi lines up top lawyers to defend Ruto's housing levy

President William Ruto during the laying of the foundation stone for the 320-unit Nyeri Blue Valley Affordable Housing. [PCS]

Attorney General Justin Muturi has lined up top legal minds to defend the government in the second-round battle over housing levy.

This comes as two other new cases were filed challenging the new law assented to by President William Ruto in March.

Muturi has trusted former AG, Prof Githu Muigai to head senior lawyers Paul Nyamodi, Kiragu Kimani and lawyer Mahat Somane to fight on behalf of the Kenya Kwanza regime.

The team will also have a senior state council in the AG's office Charles Mutinda.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Katiba Institute filed a separate case challenging the levy.

The two lobby groups argued that Parliament failed to involve key players who were required to voice their support or dissent on President Ruto’s pet project.

They argued that the National Lands Commission (NLC) and National Housing Corporation (NHC) were not a party to the new law.

Their lawyers Dudley Ochiel, Malidzo Nyawa and Bosire Bonyi urged High Court Judge Chacha Mwita to issue orders barring Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) from demanding housing levy until the case is heard and determined.

“To avert a continued enforcement of an unconstitutional law, the petitioner seeks for conservatory orders pending hearing and determination of this application as well as the entire petition. This will save the public from the agony they face arising from deduction of their salary. This matter is brought in the interest of members of the public,” they argued.

Nevertheless, ­­­Robert Gathogo and Ernest Muriu filed a separate case over the same issue. Their grievance was that there was no correlation between the number of affordable houses being constructed and the amount being collected.

The argued that the government has to-date remained silent on the number of houses it intends to build and how much is meant to be collected for the same.

Gathogo, who is a lawyer also revisited the money collected under the law which was declared unconstitutional. He urged the court to force the government to refund all the money collected from employed persons. 

He also argued that Senate never conducted public participation as required by the law.

“The respondents failed in their duty to uphold and protect the Constitution by imposing upon Kenyans a mandatory levy on their hard-earned income without a correlation of the levy to the use or consumption of the housing units,” argued Gathogo.

The cases challenging the housing levy have so far hit 10.

The elephant in the room this time is government’s failure to consider the majority voices against the levy, failure to give notices to those who are affected by demolitions and KRA’s powers.

At least 22 senators and Trade Union Congress of Kenya (TUC-KE) filed their case last week.

Senators in their case went for the process through which the new levy was assented into law by President William Ruto. They claimed that the processes were simply a fraud by the Kenya Kwanza regime.

The Senators in court are Okiya Omtatah, Stewart Madzayo, Enoch Kiio Wambua, Ledama Ole Kina, Edwin Sifuna, Okong’o Omogeni, Moses Kajwang Otieno, Godfrey Osotsi, Mohamed Faki Mwinyihaji, Johnes Mwaruma, Crystal Asige, Dan Maanzo, Agnes Kavindu Muthama, Dr. Oburu Odinga, Richard Onyonka, Beatrice A. Oyomo, Catherine Muyeka Mumma, Hamida Kibwana, Hezena Lamaletian, Dr. Beth Kalunda Syengo, Shakila Abdalla Mohamed, and Eddy Gicheru Oketch.

Others in the Senator’s onslaught are Eliud Matindi, Benson Odiwour, Victor Okuna, Florence Kanyua, Juma Isaac and former Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter.

They claimed that there was no public participation when the new Bill was introduced in the National Assembly and Senate.

The TUC-KE case revolved around the implication of the housing levy to Kenyan pockets. The union argued that the government is overzealous to cart away more than a third of taxpayers' money, which is contrary to the employment and labour laws.

Then there was the case filed by Moses Nthurima. Nthurima who is an advocate. The crux of his case was that the government failed to factor in salient issues raised by Kenyans including overwhelming opposition against the levy.

The cases will be mentioned on Friday.