NAIROBI April 22 – The hearing of a case in which Agriculture Minister, William Ruto, is challenging the legality of fraud charges against him failed to take off on Tuesday after the Presiding Judge withdrew from the case.
Ruto was charged alongside former Commissioner of Lands Sammy Mwaita and former President Daniel Moi’s aide Joshua Kulei, with allegedly obtaining more than Sh63 million from the Kenya Pipeline Company Limited (KPC) through false pretence.
It is claimed that Ruto obtained the money from KPC’s Finance Manager by pretending he was able to sell to the company a parcel of land within Ngong’ Forest in September 2001.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Joseph Nyamu, withdrew from the case because of what he termed as personal reasons.
Justice Nyamu excused himself and asked his colleagues Justices Roselyne Wendoh and George Dulu to refer the matter to the Chief Justice so that another judge could be appointed.
In the application, Ruto wanted the court to block the charges saying his fundamental rights were likely to be breached in the event that the trial was sustained.
Kulei was on the other hand charged with allegedly obtaining Sh58.7 million belonging to KPC on September 6, 2001 under the same disguise.
Mwaita was also charged with abuse of office for consenting to the transfer of the parcel separately from Priority Limited, Celtic Multisystems Limited and Berke Commercial Agencies Limited to KPC, before the said land had been degazetted.
This was said by the prosecution to be prejudicial to the pipeline company.
Former Lands Commissioner arraigned in court
Meanwhile, former Commissioner of Lands Wilson Gachanja and former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Settlement Joseah Kimutai Sang were also arraigned in court on Tuesday charged with abuse of office.
The two appeared before Senior Principal Magistrate Teresia Ngugi for allegedly allotting government land to a cooperative society in Mau forest in July 1995.
It was alleged that Gachanja and Sang irregularly issued freehold grants to Kericho Rural Multi Purpose Cooperative Society, where Sang was a secretary.
Gachanja was further charged with breach of trust for allegedly directing his assistants to issue letters of allotment conferring freehold title deeds to the same firm.
They denied the charges and were released on a Sh1 million cash bail each and an alternative Sh5 million bond with a surety of the same amount.
The case will be heard on June 17.
These cases come in the wake of a ministerial suspension of haphazard allocation of public land.
Newly appointed Lands Minister James Orengo indicated while taking office on Monday that any further allocations would have to be supported by a written justification and be done in accordance with the land laws.
“We are seeing cases in which the government has to buy land to build public utilities because we sold our public land,” Orengo said.
Currently the constitution vests the power to allocate public land solely on the President, though this power has been largely exploited by senior ministry officials in the past.