Lawyer caught up in child custody feud between water agency boss, junior worker

Ms Sheila Sabaya of Sabaya and Associates company advocates is representing a female staff at the Central Rift Water Development Agency who is embroiled in a child custody battle with her boss Samuel Kipampi Oruma

Photo credit: Courtesy

A Nakuru-based lawyer is caught up in the middle of a child custody dispute involving a senior official at the Central Rift Valley Water Development Agency and a junior female staff member.

Ms Sheilla Sabayi, the woman’s lawyer, has found herself fighting for her rights alongside that of her client, claiming she had been threatened and harassed by police officers.

Ms Sabayi told the Nakuru High Court that she was arrested and detained illegally by the police while carrying out her constitutional duty of representing her client.

The client has been embroiled in a two-year legal battle with the father of her child and her boss, Mr Samuel Kipampi Oruma, the CEO of CRVWDA, over custody.

Court documents show that the two were in a romantic relationship that resulted in the birth of the child in 2019.

The affair turned sour in 2020 after the woman was diagnosed with a medical condition and she became indisposed for eight months.

The two allegedly disagreed over her decision to return to her parents’ house so she could get better care.

Mr Oruma allegedly responded by taking the eight-month-old child away from its mother and placing it under the custody of his first wife, who resided in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County.

But when the child’s mother recovered in May 2021, she sued and the court granted joint custody to the parents pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

On March 28, however, the magistrate granted full custody to Mr Oruma, prompting the woman to appeal in the High court.

But in a March 29 ruling, Justice Joel Ngugi stayed the execution of the orders and directed that the child be handed back to its mother.

Ms Sabayi, however, claims Mr Oruma tricked her client into meeting with him to play with the child and forcefully whisked the child away.

After the woman learned that the child was in Ongata Rongai, she went there and took the baby back to Nakuru.

The court heard that Ms Sabayi was shocked when she received a distress call from her client informing her that the child’s father had come to her house with police officers to demand the baby back.

She rushed to the scene to show the police the court orders but she said the officers ignored her.

“At around 10pm, the applicant's counsel was arrested on trumped up charges of obstruction and bundled into an unmarked police double cabin pick up registration number GKB455Z,” a court document says.

“At the instruction of the respondents, she was taken to Nakuru Central police station but was not booked.”

Ms Sabayi was released at 3am when her client gave in to pressure and surrendered the baby, whose whereabouts she claims not to know.

She also claims her client is intimidated and harassed at work and is afraid of losing her job and life.

The woman now wants the High Court to compel Mr Oruma to produce the child and hand it over to her. She also wants the man to be restrained from going to her residence to take the child.

She also wants the CEO to be committed to civil jail for disregarding the court orders.

The court issued orders granting joint custody to both parents pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

But Mr Oruma denied the claims, calling them malicious, in bad faith and a gross violation of the court process.

He argued that the woman wilfully surrendered the child to him in contravention of earlier court orders. He also claimed the woman had neglected the child when she had custody, adding that he is in a better position to take care of the minor.

“The applicant can at any time access our matrimonial home in Kabarak where the child resides as long as it is within the terms of the ruling of this court,” Mr Oruma said in his affidavit.

He urged the court to dismiss the application.