The sudden dismissal of Muhoroni and Miwani Sugar joint receiver-manager Francis Ooko continues to attract mixed reactions between political leaders and sugarcane farmers.
While opposition leaders suspect a sinister motive behind the sacking, sugarcane farmers have called on investigative agencies to conduct a lifestyle audit and trace the money lost from the cash-strapped millers.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi has, however, alleged that the abrupt withdrawal of Mr Ooko is part of a syndicate to use the public sugar mills as points of repackaging imported sugar and killing the mainstay of Western Kenya residents.
The Ugunja MP who spoke in Kisumu on Saturday, June 3 accused the Kenya Kwanza government of scheming to take over the sector by installing managers of questionable credentials to dump sugar into the country.
“His abrupt dismissal is a direct result of his relentless opposition to an attempted take-over of Miwani Sugar Factory land by Crossley Holding Limited, a company that is, reportedly, holding briefs for sugar barons in Kenya Kwanza,” he said.
He termed the sacking on May 22 as illegal, noting that the gazette notice no.5473, has not been revoked.
“Within a very short span of time, Chemelil Sugar Company, Nzoia Sugar and now Muhoroni Sugar Company have had their chief executive officers withdrawn and replaced by people from one ethnic community,” Mr Wandayi said.
Muhoroni Branch Secretary General for the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KNFSF) Noah Opiyo on his side blamed Mr Ooko for presiding over the mismanagement of the company and accumulating huge debt owed to workers.
“The company is owing workers salary arrears that have accrued for the last 37 months,” he said.
The workers have threatened to down their tools from next Friday to push the management to clear their arrears.
“Despite giving their all, the workers have been forced to live like paupers,” he said while issuing a seven-day notice yesterday.
The farmers also appealed to the government to consider separating Miwani from Muhoroni as well as withdrawing Muhoroni from receivership.
“Just like other millers, we are calling on the government to put in place a board and appoint a substantive CEO who can be held accountable in the day to day management of the company,” he said.
Muhoroni joint receiver manage Harun Kirui has, however, pointed out that lack of sugarcane has crippled their operations.
“Amidst all the challenges, we have been paying farmers for the produce delivered even as we are waiting for the National Treasury to release arrears dating back to 2019-2020,” he said.