Governors demand powers to remove ‘rogue’ deputies

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 00:00 |
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko (right) with his then deputy Polycarp Igathe. Sonko has been without a deputy since Igathe resigned in January last year. Photo/PD/FILE

Governors are plotting to arrogate  themselves the power to hire and fire “stubborn” deputies through an impeachment process.

As they officially joined the referendum bandwagon last week, the county chiefs under the aegis of the  Council of Governors outlined their wishlist for the constitutional review in a document christened; Ugatuzi Initiative. 

Already in the public domain are the yet to be released report of the Building Bridges Initiative, which was birthed by the March 9, last year Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and Punguza Mizigo of Thirdway Alliance leader  Ekuro Aukot.

The plot to ensure that devolved units’ bosses gain full political control in the counties in case of a fallout, they among other demands, seek to ostensibly entrench devolution, want the inclusion of a clause providing the procedure for the impeachment and replacement of deputy governors. 

“(The Constitutional reforms should) expressly provide for grounds and procedures for removal of a deputy governor,” reads one of their pointers.

While the law provides grounds and procedure for sacking governors as captured by Section 33 of the County Governments Act, it has been silent on how to deal with a deputy governor, a thing that has seen the county chief forced to live with defiant deputies.

But if the CoG’s initiative succeeds, deputy governors, whose positions, as per the current provisions can only fall vacant in case of resignation, death or conviction, can be kicked out through a constitutional process.  

Currently, Governor Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and his deputy James Nyoro are at loggerheads over alleged bad leadership and embezzlement of funds. Though Waititu’s allies in the county assembly have always mulled a plot to impeach Nyoro, they hit a dead end because there was no law to support them. 

In 2017, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto reportedly kicked out his deputy Stephen Mutai, with whom he had frosty relations, for allegedly absconding duty for two years and nominated the county chief of staff, Geoffrey Langat to replace him.

But that, too, flopped with a defiant Mutai dismissing the alleged sacking saying he would not be intimidated to leave office without due process.

 Later, Ruto seemed to eat humble pie and “clarified” that he had only re-allocated the duties falling under Mutai after parting ways with him politically. He, therefore, had to put up with his “enemy” until his term ended.

In Murang’a, Governor Mwangi Wa Iria, who in the last term survived an impeachment, had bad blood with his deputy Gakure Monyo and in November 2015, the deputy had his office demolished by contractors in what he said was a calculated move to force him out.

They are also trying to fix a lack of clear mechanism to fill the deputy governor’s slot in case of a vacancy in the office. 

For instance, Nairobi and Bomet counties are currently operating without deputies while West Pokot is dealing with an absentee despite a law and Supreme Court advisory being in place requiring that the positions be filled, latest, one month after falling vacant.

In May this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law Assumption of the Office of Governor Bill sponsored by Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi and which gives guidelines for replacement of deputy governors in case of death, resignation, conviction or assumption of position of governor.

The law provides that in the case the deputy governor’s office falls vacant, the governor should within 14 days nominate a replacement and forward the name to the County Assembly for approval.

The motion for the approval for appointment, the Act says, must be supported by a majority of the members.

Supreme Court, in a judgment delivered in March last year by justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang, Smoking Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u and Isaac Lenaola ruled that a governor should nominate a replacement within 14 days and the respective county assembly votes within 60 days.

But despite the existence of the law, Nairobi has remained without a deputy since Polycarp Igathe resigned in January last year citing frustrations and a strained relationship with his boss, Mike Sonko.

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