Court rejects Kidero co-accused plea to defer case over Covid
An attempt by some co-accused persons charged with former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to have their Sh 213 million graft case postponed flopped yesterday.
Milimani Anti-corruption Magistrate Douglas Ogoti rejected the bid by former County Secretary Lilian Wanjiru Ndegwa and former acting chief finance officer Luke Mugo Gatimu to have the case postponed to later date due to Covid -19 pandemic.
In a brief ruling, Ogoti dismissed the application to have the case adjourned and directed the case to proceed today( Thursday) morning adding that court will adhere to strict Ministry of Health (MOH) regulations and it will endeavor to get a spacious court which can allow mounting of a television screen.
Open court spaces provided by Milimani Law Courts according to MOH regulations can hold up to 38 people.
The magistrate also ordered that only accused persons, lawyers and media personnel in the graft case Kidero and 10 others will be allowed in court for hearing today. The lawyers from both state and defense in the case are 20.
Ogoti gave the directives after the former county Secretary through lawyer Paul Ng’arwa had sought to have the matter pushed to another date saying that she is unwell after she tested positive for Covid.
He informed the court that his client has been unwell and was unable to proceed with the hearing of the case.
“Ms Ndegwa has come to this court under very difficult conditions as she is sick and because of the penal consequences that may be threatened against her for failure to attend court she attended today’s court session,” Ng’arwa said.
The lawyer informed the court that her client’s doctors had advised her to wear oxygen masks.
“Ms Ndegwa as you can see, is wearing three masks and has kept on stepping out of the court room to get some fresh air.
Lawyer Ng’arwa urged the court to have her client provided a booth to avoid interacting with other court users.
On his side lawyer John Mburu for former acting chief finance officer Luke Mugo Gatimu asked the court to adjourn the matter saying the case was fully packed and had violated the MOH guidelines.
“We urge the case to be postponed until such a time when all Kenyans are fully vaccinated to ensure the safety of all the parties in this matter are safe,” Mburu said.
Remarks by Mburu prompted magistrate Ogoti to find out those vaccinated with the Covid jab in a matter including the accused person, their lawyers and the prosecution.
Most of the accused persons said they were fully vaccinated, while others were waiting for their second dose. Only two out of the eleven accused persons are yet to be vaccinated.
However, the prosecution led by state counsel Joseph Riungu vehemently opposed the request to have the case adjourned and urged the court to come up with mechanism parameters to facilitate the matter proceeds for hearing.
“It is true we are in the middle of a pandemic, we have hearing dates that are already there and agree among ourselves during the virtual court sessions.
Let us have a consensus as parties on how we are going to proceed with the case following MOH guidelines,” Riungu said.
He added that 15 witnesses have already testified in the matter.
The case was to proceed for hearing yesterday but was adjourned to today to allow one of the accused persons new legal representation familiarize himself with the proceedings.
In the case where Kidero is charged alongside former County Secretary Lilian Ndegwa, Chief Finance Officer Jimmy Mutuku Kiamba and Finance and Planning minister Gregory Mwakanongo.
Others charged are Head of Accounting Stephen Ogago Osiro, acting Chief Finance Officer Luke Gatimu and Acting Head of Treasury Maurice Ochieng Okere.
The charges state that they conspired to commit fraud, which led to the loss of Sh213, 327,300 at the county government between January 16, 2014 and January 25, 2016.
It is said that they allegedly conspired to commit corruption by authorising payment to various companies for services not rendered.
Kidero alone is further accused of dealing with suspected property by allegedly receiving a benefit amounting to Sh24 million from Lodwar Wholesalers Ltd on diverse dates.