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Senate sharply divided on legality of Nairobi take-over

NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 27 – The Senate has summoned Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and the Chairperson of the Council of Governors Wycliffe Oparanya over the Nairobi take-over by the national government.

Senate Deputy Speaker Kindiki Kithure issued the orders on Wednesday afternoon directing that the hearings should be jointly done by the Devolution and Justice and Legal Affairs Committees.

He directed the committees to file an interim report within twenty days from Wednesday before the House, stating whether there were legislative gaps that the Nairobi County Government and the National Government might have taken advantage of in signing the controversial deal.

After the report, he added that another round of public participation which should be conducted within Nairobi should take effect followed by the presentation of a comprehensive report within sixty days.

His ruling followed a heated session where the Senators sharply differed on the legality of the move by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko to surrender some of the key functions of the County to the national government, in a deal signed Tuesday before President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi.

The divisions emerged during Wednesday afternoon’s session when the House suspended normal business to discuss the matter that continues to elicit mixed reactions among legal scholars and Kenyans at large.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen who tabled the motion of adjournment to have the House ventilate on the matter, described it as illegal.

“It is therefore, completely baffling and unfathomable that despite the express requirements of the Constitution, the move was conducted in an entirely opaque manner with no reference whatsoever to the public generally and in particular to the people of Nairobi City County,” he protested.

A case was filed in court Wednesday, challenging the move, with the hearing now set for March 11.

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He said the decision was unilaterally made by Sonko and at best an ambush to city residents who gave him the mandate to offer leadership and provide services.

He faulted Sonko who is out on bond after denying corruption charges, and who is barred from accessing office until his case if heard and determined.

Senate Minority Leader James Orengo cautioned members not to trivialize the matter. “What choice would have acted as an alternative? Would you rather suspend the entire county government, would you impeach the Governor, would you keep quiet and let Nairobi burn, these are all choices. I think in this circumstance anybody who is acting rationally had to look for a way in dealing with the problem in Nairobi so that people could get services,” he said.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja surprised members when he alluded to being privy to the finer details of the deed of transfer after being a participant in the meeting between the National Government and the County Government that brokered the deal to have Sonko cede some of his duties.

He told his colleagues that the move was the best solution to the crisis bedeviling the city, citing situations where services have been delayed or denied to the residents due to a proper leadership framework withing the county.

“I was consulted about this move and I think it was timely. The city residents can now get the much-needed services,” he said.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said the new development clearly warrant for the impeachment of Governor Sonko because he is left with no substantive duties.

“Sonko is now placed at the category of Deputy Governors who have no work but only read newspapers. He should be impeached immediately,” he said, and scolded Sakaja for what he described as “writing the obituary of Nairobi County” in relation to devolution.

He said it would be unfair to the city residents to pay him salary and members of his Secretariat yet his job has only been reduced to a Governor on paper.

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He noted that the Governor had conceded that he had no capacity to lead describing him as a “Governor without portfolio”.

“Why pay money to the Governor yet his fate has been sealed,” he said.

Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri took a swipe at his colleagues for not being proactive in coming up with a legislation that would counter the lacuna in law that would have provided for their input in handling the matter.

“Sonko is still the Governor and he acted in the best interest of the people of the County. The move is welcomed and if at all there are questions about their being a lacuna in law then we should blame ourselves,” he said.

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