How NMS made Sonko a governor without portfolio

Major-General Abdalla Badi, director-general of the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, in March 2020.

Major-General Mohammed Badi, director-general of the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, in March 2020.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Even before his impeachment, Mike Sonko was already a governor without portfolio, having seen his powers considerably reduced with the signing of the Deed of Transfer of Functions in February.

The takeover by the national government effectively saw the governor hand over to the State crucial county functions of health, transport, public service, utilities and ancillary services, and county planning and development.

This saw the establishment of the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) in March to head the functions with the outfit headed by Major-General Mohammed Badi as its Director-General.

Consequently, this left the governor with the control of less influential county departments including ICT and e-government, education and sports, agriculture and livestock, trade and co-operative and depleted devolution, environment and finance sectors just in paper.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko before Senate in Nairobi in December 2020 during the hearing of his impeachment motion.

Then Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko when he appeared before the Senate in Nairobi in December 2020 during the hearing of his impeachment motion.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Two centres of power were created with Mr Sonko being left a paper governor as Maj-Gen Badi took control of affairs of the capital city.

With a financial war chest of Sh27.1 billion for the transferred functions, accounting for more than two-thirds of the county government’s annual budget, the former governor was left with just Sh8.4 billion at his disposal.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) later took over revenue collection in Nairobi, wresting the key function of the finance department controlling over Sh10 billion in own-source revenue from the City Hall boss.

More than 6,800 county staff also left City Hall for NMS despite protests by Mr Sonko, leaving the county government with slightly over 4,000 employees out of the total 11,603 workers.

Disbanded committee

In a show of where the new power resided, the NMS Director-General disbanded Nairobi county government’s pre-technical committee and the Nairobi City County urban planning technical committee.

The two committees were responsible for consideration and approval of development applications in Nairobi.

He formed one later in July – the urban planning technical committee, domiciled in his office – to handle building plan approvals.

Maj-Gen Badi also announced the suspension of the e-construction system, which was being used by City Hall declaring all applications processed through the e-construction development management system by City Hall from March 18, 2020, null and void.

Stop attempts

In July, Mr Badi put Mr Sonko in his place by stopping his attempts to move into the former Mayor’s residence in Lavington.

He ring-fenced the property, warning the former Makadara MP against setting foot on the residence.

“I am not fighting the Governor because remember the house has been vacant for the past two years. So what is this hullaballoo that he, all over a sudden, wants to occupy the house?” posed Mr Badi.

Two months later, President Uhuru Kenyatta left nothing to guesswork on who was in charge of the capital city by making Maj-Gen Badi part of his Cabinet meetings.

After taking an oath of secrecy in September, Mr Badi began attending Cabinet meetings placing him at the centre of power.

This is after the President had included NMS as one of the offices falling under the Executive Office of the President, meaning the new outfit would be funded directly by the national government and have recruitment of its workers done directly by the Public Service Commission.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Mohammed Badi, the NMS director general.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Mohammed Badi, the NMS director general.

Photo credit: PSCU

In October, Mr Sonko had his remaining powers clipped even further with Nairobi MCAs passing a resolution to have the management of the Sh1.3 billion ward development fund (WDF) projects moved from his office to NMS.

“The fund cannot continue to be controlled by the governor because the office cannot cost, raise bills of quantities or certificates as all engineers, who are expected to undertake the projects, are now under the public works department, which is a transferred function under NMS,” said Nairobi County Assembly Budget and Appropriations chairperson and Kariobangi South MCA Robert Mbatia.

Speaking on Citizen TV’s JKL show that month, Mr Badi reiterated that he was the boss in Nairobi, urging Mr Sonko, instead of fighting him, to take credit for the development projects he was implementing across Nairobi as he (Badi) has no political ambitions.

Attempts by Mr Sonko to fight back only brought him trouble, putting him in a collision course with President Kenyatta.

He was gradually relegated to the periphery of State affairs where he used to enjoy a front-row seat.

Mr Sonko was quickly isolated before being impeached by Nairobi MCAs on December 3, 2020, a resolution that was confirmed by the Senate on December 17, 2020.