Leaders plot impeachment to avert crisis at City Hall
Eric Wainaina and Hillary Mageka
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who was yesterday charged in court over graft allegations, is staring at impeachment as a section of city politicians explore ways to save City Hall from a constitutional crisis.
The county does not have a deputy governor after Polycarp Igathe resigned 18 months ago, citing a bad working relationship with the flamboyant governor.
Despite pressure, Sonko has refused to nominate a replacement. This leaves the county in a quandary should the court bar him from his office like it did to governors Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu).
Experts have ruled out the option of County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi taking over in acting capacity because a suspension of a governor by a court does not create a vacancy in that office.
The governor’s seat, according to Article 182 of the Constitution, only falls vacant if the holder dies, resigns, ceases to be eligible to be elected, convicted or is removed from office through an impeachment.
Sonko’s critics have been exploring the impeachment route to force a by-election.
Yesterday, sources within City Hall spoke of plans to kick off the impeachment process on grounds of gross misconduct and abuse of office.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who has accused Sonko of deliberately walking the county into the constitutional crisis, said some politicians had been deliberating on the impeachment.
“That could be a way out,” said Sakaja.
He added: “Why did it take him all this time to nominate a deputy governor? He said there was no framework, we created one but still he did not because for him it’s a matter of if he is not there (then) no work should take place,” Sakaja told People Daily yesterday.
One of the governor’s aides, who cannot be quoted because he is not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed of a plot to impeach the governor.
Yesterday, the prosecution asked the court to deny the governor, who was charged with Sh357 million irregular procurement, bail arguing he will interfere with witnesses who are junior officers and employees at the county government.
Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti ordered that he be remanded for two more days pending a determination on whether he will be freed on bail or not.
Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi said Sonko’s failure to nominate a deputy puts the county in a “unique, precarious and unseen situation”, because there is no one to act if the courts decide that he will be out of office until the end of the trial.
According to Mkangi, Elachi cannot hold the position because she would have done so in case of a vacancy and for the Sonko’s case, he is still in office.
“Elachi cannot assume the office as people are suggesting. When a governor is suspended from office through the actions of the court, does that amount to a vacancy?” asked Mkangi.
Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni echoed Mkangi’s position, saying there was no possibility of the national government taking over the operations at City Hall or Elachi acting as governor following the arraignment of Sonko.
“I don’t think we have reached a point we can say we have a vacancy in the county governor’s office,” Omogeni said.
But even then, the law states that in case a vacancy occurs in the office of governor, the deputy county governor shall assume office as county governor for the remainder of the term of the county governor.
On July 24, High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi ruled that governors charged with corruption should stay away from office and their roles taken over by their deputies for the duration of the trial. But Sonko’s issue presents a dilemma because of the absence a deputy.