Samburu county Government is headed into paralysis as all members of the Executive face charges in court. On Wednesday, after Governor Moses Kasaine was charged and restrained from accessing his office, his deputy, county secretary and chief officers were also arrested and hauled before an anti-corruption court.
The County Government Act says the deputy governor takes charges in the absence of the governor.
However, the law is silent on what happens when both the governor and his deputy have been charged (with corruption) and are restricted from accessing their offices. In this case, the county secretary, who acts as chief administrator, has also been arraigned.
Yesterday, however, the county officers did not plead to the charges and spent the night in police custody after Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti recused himself from handling the matter.
Ogoti withdrew himself following an application by the governor’s lawyer Paul Nyamodi and the other lawyers representing the county officers, who accused him of bias over an article that appeared in a local daily.
“I will never cling to a matter where the parties express bias of the court. I have consulted my conscience and it tells me not to handle any matter related to this,” he ruled.
Ogoti directed the accused persons to appear before Senior Principal Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi for plea taking today.
Nyamodi had accused the magistrate, who released the governor on Sh150 million bond, of holding very strong personal views on the case, which he said would hinder justice for the accused persons.
“It was most inappropriate to express yourself in this manner written in the article. The Judiciary has no role fighting corruption. It should determine cases based on the evidence in court,” said Nyamodi.
The lawyer said the article showed the court had changed its mindset about corruption and his intention did not go well with administration of justice.
The other lawyers made a similar application and asked the plea to be deferred as the article showed Ogoti was not fit to handle the matter.
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), through prosecution counsel Alexander Muteti, opposed the application, saying the lawyers were trying to intimidate the court.
“Courts must rise to the occasion and not be cowed by suspects of corruption. They must remain true to the fidelity of the law,” he said.
The governor is expected to plead to the charges afresh on April 29 after the prosecution substituted the charge sheet.
Kasaine is accused of conspiring to commit a corruption offence with the county officers, which led to unlawful payment of Sh84,695,996 to his fuel company Oryx Service Station.
The governor also faces charges of conflict of interest in that he acquired contracts between Oryx Service Station, of which he is sole proprietor, and Samburu County Government, where he the governor, for the supply of fuel.
He also faced a count of unlawful acquisition of public property.
He had been released on a bond of Sh150 million or a cash bail of Sh100 million but the High Court reduced it to Sh30 million bond or a cash bail of Sh10 million.