Bribery claims as Senate debates governor ouster

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021 00:00 |
The chairman of the Senate committee, which will hear impeachment case against Wajir Governor Mohammed Mohamud, Okong’o Omogeni (right) with members Johnson Sakaja (left) and Hargura Godana when they met yesterday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Claims of bribery have rocked the Senate ahead of the hearing of the impeachment charges against Wajir Governor Mohamed Mahamud.

The governor is facing several charges including abuse of office, gross violation of the Constitution and undermining authority of the County Assembly.

Last week, the senators voted in favour of a 11-member committee to hear the case instead of the whole House. It will be chaired by Nyamira senator Okong’o Omogeni.

Standing Order No.75 (1)(b)(1) and (2) states: “The Senate may either by resolution appoint a special committee comprising 11 of its members to investigate the matter or investigate the matter in plenary.”

But during debate on what option to take, some senators raised suspicions about the committee route, which rekindled past allegations of legislators extorting influential figures under probe by House committees.

Some members who sat in three special committees to hear impeachment charges against three governors allegedly received kickbacks to “look the other way” and gave a favourable verdict.

The revelations came to the fore on Thursday as senators argued whether to hear the charges levelled against Governor Mahamud by his County Assembly through plenary or by an 11-member select committee.

Senators traded accusations, with some charging that those proposing a special committee were plotting to save the governor from impeachment.

“I support the plenary route. This House has so far carried out four impeachments.

Of those, two happened in plenary and two by committees. For the two that happened through special committee, there were allegations that members were compromised and those governors were, therefore, acquitted,” Senate Deputy Majority Whip Farhiya Ali said, adding that some members were compromised.

“I have heard many stories and so let us not shame this Senate,” Farhiya, a nominated senator, added.

Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali said the case should be heard in plenary.

“I disagree with members saying we should go the committee way because we have seen what happens when we do that.

I do not want to cast aspersions on anybody. But no governor, who has been taken to a special committee, has been impeached.

Why is that so? The ones that were brought to plenary have gone home. There is a reason for that,” Ali said. 

In the 11th Parliament, the Senate, on five occasions, considered the impeachment of governors and deputy governors by way of a special committee and on one occasion, in the plenary.

In the 12th Parliament, the Senate on two occasions considered the removal of governors by way of special committees and on two occasions decided to go the plenary way.

Five attempts

Of the five attempts to impeach governors, the Senate upheld impeachment of governors Ferdinard Waititu (Kiambu) in January 2020, Mike Sonko (Nairobi) December 2020, and that of Embu’s Martin Wambora who was saved by court orders in 2014. 

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula said that when the 11-member team chaired by the then Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale handled Wambora’s case, there were no rumours, innuendo or aspersions because everybody accepted the outcome of the report of the committee.

He said the committee route became suspect when the House started to hear “strange stories” about the conduct of some members.

“We have had very serious allegations of impropriety in certain processes. Do we want to go through those soiled routes? Let us take a route that gives justice to the Governor of Wajir,” said Wetang’ula. 

He said there was a high level of mistrust among senators. Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who served in Governor Wambora’s impeachment committee, said there were no allegations of impropriety then.

Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko said suspicion among members had soiled the image of the Senate and the standing of committee in the eyes of the public.

“If we show we have no faith in the Senate by undermining our own reputations, it becomes problematic,” Ayacko said.

Bomet Senator Christopher Langat said the perception that the fairest way to hear impeachment charges against a governor was the plenary was a creation of senators.

“I have also heard some governors say it is easier to deal with MCAs than coming to the Senate because some of them believe there is no justice,” Langat said.

Senate Minority Leader James Orengo asked the House to treat a governor’s impeachment motion with decorum.

Other than the Supreme Court, he said, only the Senate can remove an elected leader.

“That is the power given only to the highest courts in the land and the Senate. I beg you that when you are dealing with a matter of such weight, we treat it with decorum so that anybody looking at the proceedings knows we are taking this matter seriously,” Orengo said.

Meanwhile, the special committee will tomorrow begin the process of hearing impeachment motion against the Wajir Governor.

The committee chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni has structured the hearing to accord both the governor and his accusers a day each to argue their cases.

During the two day hearing, Wajir County Assembly and their witnesses will be given three hours tomorrow (Wednesday) morning to present evidence and justify the impeachment.

In the afternoon, the governor through his lawyers will be given time to cross examine the Assembly and its witnesses.

On Thursday, the governor will give his response to the charges and defend himself against the allegations.

The Assembly will afterwards be given time for the rebuttal.

Addressing a press conference at Parliament Buildings yesterday, Omogeni said notices to appear before the committee were served last week both to the County Assembly Speaker Ibrahim Yakub and the governor’s team

“We expect the governor and the Speaker to file their documents to the office of the Clerk by close of business today (Wednesday) at 5pm,” the senator said.

Orengo disclosed that the committee will retreat from Friday to Sunday to analyse the evidence and write a report which will be presented to the House on May 17.

“In that regard, we are liaising with the office of the Speaker to ensure that we have a special sitting on Tuesday May 17 at 2:30pm,” he said.

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