Polycarp Igathe

Former Nairobi deputy governor Polycarp Igathe and Governor Ann Kananu.

| File | Nation Media Group

The jinxed Nairobi deputy governor’s office

The Nairobi deputy governor’s office has now proved to be jinxed since the abrupt resignation of Polycarp Igathe in January 2018.

Close to four years on, the office has only had one substantive holder, the current Governor Ann Kananu. Since 2017, the office has had two occupants.

Mr Igathe lasted less than five months, serving for only four months and three weeks between August 21, 2017 and January 12, 2018, after falling out with ex-governor Mike Sonko.

Then came Ms Kananu on January 15, 2021, filling an office that had been vacant for more than three years.

Interestingly, Ms Kananu had to wait more than a year to take the reins after her nomination by Mr Sonko on January 6, 2020.

One court case after another would put paid efforts by the 41-year-old to be vetted and approved for the position.

She would only get relief in January after the High Court gave the Nairobi County Assembly the go-ahead to vet her.

The nomination of firebrand lawyer Miguna Miguna to the position in June 2018 turned out to be a smokescreen by Mr Sonko to buy time. Mr Miguna would in the end be rejected by the county assembly for being a dual citizen.

Now, with eight months to the General Election, the ghost of the office has reared its ugly head once again.

Governor Kananu’s nominee Paul Mutungi is now facing the twin threat of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the courts, which are standing between him and becoming the successor to her boss.

After being vetted and approved by MCAs last month in a record five hours, the City Hall chief of staff is not sitting pretty.

However, the telltale signs of future trouble were all over the wall, only that ward reps chose to turn a blind eye.

During the vetting, it emerged that Mr Mutungi had no clearance from EACC and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Chapter Six of the Constitution provides that individuals aspiring for deputy governor positions and other state officers in elective seats can only be appointed to a public office if they have been cleared by the EACC and IEBC, among other state agencies.

The EACC and IEBC are critical government agencies tasked with implementing Chapter Six on leadership and integrity.

In the documents he presented to the Appointments Committee, the two critical documents were missing.

The committee also received a damning memorandum from the Concerned Citizen Alliance contesting Mr Mutungi’s suitability for the deputy governor’s position.

The memorandum alleged corruption cases in the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division Court in Nairobi. It also claimed that he had been adversely mentioned in land scandals in Nairobi, including evictions in Kayole and World Bank Housing projects in Makongeni.

But the 47-year-old defended himself, saying he had neither received a bribe nor solicited one, and had never dealt with or had any interest in land matters. He added that all land he owns is either inherited or purchased and he has nothing to do with public land.

“Whatever was tabled before you is not known to me because I don’t deal with land matters at all. I have never been interested in any land in Kayole nor have I ever interfered with housing matters in Makongeni,” he said.

“Although my interest is in real estate, I can assure this committee that all the land I have I either inherited or purchased through the normal way,” he added.

The committee also supported him in its report, saying that while he was charged in a court of law, the matter was still pending.

The committee also dismissed the memoranda against his nomination, saying the claims were raised by way of a letter and not a statement on oath (affidavit) as is required.

“There is no proof or evidence … provided by the memoranda on the existence of a court case, its facts, its decision, or if the nominee has been found personally culpable,” the report says.

The county assembly proceeded to approve the nominee, with 89 ward representatives voting in the affirmative.

However, immediately after the approval, activist Okiya Omtatah rushed to court, seeking to stop Governor Kananu from appointing him to the position.

Justice Hedwig Ong’udi responded by issuing conservatory orders prohibiting Mr Mutungi from taking the oath of office as deputy governor pending the determination of the petition.

The order also prohibited Governor Kananu from appointing him as the next deputy governor until the petition is dispensed with.

“Pending the inter-parties hearing and determination of this application, the court is pleased to issue a temporary order of prohibition prohibiting Mr Mutungi from taking the oath of office as the Nairobi deputy governor or assuming or occupying the office,” the judge said in the November 26 order.

Mr Omtatah argued that the nomination, vetting and approval of Mr Mutungi were a nullity in law because the process was done without the nominee first being cleared by the IEBC.

He also claimed that a person facing active criminal charges in the High Court is ineligible for appointment as deputy governor.

He also accuses the county assembly of rushing the vetting process as well as failing to provide for effective public participation, only providing three days for the public to submit affidavits on the suitability or otherwise of the nominee.

“Unless the court intervenes immediately, Mr Mutungi, who was not lawfully nominated, vetted and approved for appointment as deputy governor, and who is ineligible anyway because of the ongoing criminal proceedings against him, will be unlawfully installed as the deputy governor of Nairobi,” the petition said.

On Monday, EACC also wrote to assembly Speaker Benson Mutura, saying Mr Mutungi has integrity issues with a pending graft case in court and is therefore not fit to hold such office under Chapter Six of the Constitution.

EACC boss Twalib Mbarak pointed out that the nominee was charged in the Milimani Anti-Corruption Court with graft offences committed while he served in the Nairobi County government, with the matter still pending.

The offences include unlawful acquisition of public property, money laundering, conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption and dealing with suspect property.

“In view of the (court case), the Commission objects to the nomination of Mr Mutungi as the deputy governor and advises the assembly and the governor to reconsider the nomination,” the letter said.