Waititu, wife back in custody as Nyoro takes over Kiambu reins
Nancy Gitonga and Eric Wainaina @PeopleDailyKe
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was yesterday remanded at the Industrial Area Remand Prison after failing to raise the Sh15 million cash bail or Sh30 million bond set by the court in a Sh588 million corruption case.
His wife Susan Ndung’u, whose terms were set at Sh4 million cash bail or Sh10 million bond, was also returned to the cells in Langata after failing to raise the amounts. This came as Waititu’s deputy and fierce critic James Nyoro took over office in Kiambu county albeit in acting capacity.
The developments followed a ruling by Milimani Anti-Corruption Court Chief Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi barring the governor from accessing his office until the charges against him are heard and determined. Waititu has been charged for irregularly procuring the tender for the upgrading of various gravel roads to bitumen standard.
“This court will grant bail the following accused persons and impose the following conditions: the first accused (Waititu) shall not access his office until this criminal case is heard and determined,” the magistrate ruled.
The order was replicated to co-accused and county employees who allegedly sat in the tender committee that awarded the contract to Testimony Enterprises Limited, two of the company’s directors Charles Chege and Beth Wangeci as well as Waititu’s wife.
“Equally accused persons who are employees of the County Government will not access their offices during the dependency of this case. The rest of the accused persons are also barred from setting foot in Kiambu County offices pending this trial,” said the magistrate.
He also ordered them to deposit their passports with the court and barred contact with witnesses lined up to testify against them in the graft case.
In the ruling, the magistrate cited Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi’s verdict last week in the case against Samburu governor Moses Kasaine stopping governors facing a criminal case from office pending the hearing and determination of the case.
Justice Ngugi held that governors, just like other civil servants, should step aside once charged with criminal offences and their roles taken over by their deputies for the duration of the trial.
Mugambi said the decision rendered by the High Court judge was more persuasive and authoritative and considered it as binding to the court while granting bail terms.
“Barring the first accused (the governor) from going back to office therefore does not violate the Constitution as the same is intended to ensure the integrity, credibility of the trial and to ensure public interest is safeguarded,” he said.
As Waititu fought the corruption charges in Nairobi, Nyoro held his first Cabinet meeting with the Executive and Chief officers in the afternoon after which he told journalists that they had agreed to work together to ensure none of the county programmes and services are affected.
Flanked by the CECs, COs and Ward Reps, he, however, said the move should not be taken for a coup, adding that should the governor succeed with the appeal, he will vacate.
“We are here (back to office) because the court has asked the governor not to come to office and we do not want any of the county programmes and projects to stop. People should not mistake this as a coup d’état because if the governor manages to have the bail terms reviewed, we are ready to vacate the office and leave it to him,” said Nyoro.
Should Waititu get convicted, he will automatically lose the seat in accordance to Article 181 of the Constitution which sets the guidelines for the removal of a county chief.
Nyoro, who is enjoying the backing of a majority of Ward Reps in the county, will be taking over the operations of the devolved unit in accordance to Article 175 (5) of the Constitution which states that when the county governor is absent, the deputy county governor shall act as the county governor.
However, the acting governor’s powers have been clipped restraining him from nominating, appointing or dismissing anyone.
Nyoro, a food and security expert has been at loggerheads with Waititu, who he has accused of refusing to involve him in county matters, plotting to have him locked out of office and refusing to have his official car repaired. Waititu’s case will be mentioned on August 26.