Nakuru West MP Samuel Otara Arama, who was fined Sh1.5 million on Thursday in a land fraud case, is described by his constituents as a silent, rough-edged but philanthropic lawmaker who has made his way into the hearts of the masses, securing two terms.
In his constituency, the 62-year-old lawmaker is loved and hated in equal measure, because of his double-edged personality and leadership style.
One moment he is hurling epithets at opponents and sometimes constituents who rub him the wrong way and the next he is modest and helping raise school fees or money to pay a medical bill.
That is Samuel Arama.
Mr Arama was on Thursday sentenced to six months in prison or pay Sh1.5 million in a land fraud case.
The MP was convicted of abusing his office and authority to fraudulently acquire a plot in Nakuru city.
Mr Arama, who is serving his second term, is not new to controversy.
In 2015, he was accused of assaulting a voter in his constituency and knocking off his two teeth, accusing the man of "big-headedness".
The complainant, Mr Richard Moseti, claimed he had been summoned to the Kaptembwa Police Station, only to find the agitated MP, who accused him of inciting the youth against him.
In July 2017, the MP was involved in a court battle with Family Bank over a Sh3 million loan.
The bank sought to auction a 0.15-hectare piece of land that was registered in the name of his wife Florence Masita in order to recover the loan.
The land was used as collateral to secure the loan. He lost the bid to stop the auction.
Environment and Lands Court Judge Dalmas Ohungo, in a ruling delivered on July 27, 2017, noted that Mr Arama’s petition in June 2016 opposing the auction had not established sufficient grounds and dismissed it.
Justice Ohungo dismissed the MP’s claims that the bank had failed to issue a notice to his wife.
But the parties eventually settled the matter.
In 2019, Mr Arama was involved in an altercation with an opponent.
The MP was accused of drawing his gun at a political opponent in a Nakuru church.
The altercation was with former parliamentary aspirant Hezron Okiki during a fundraiser at Angaza Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church.
The opponent was roughed up and locked up in police cells for hours before he was released.
In yet another incident in 2020, a Nakuru woman named Amanda Jeburet Chesiyna accused the MP of publicly assaulting her after a disagreement over land.
Ms Chesiyna revealed that the dispute began after the death of her father, who left behind a multibillion-shilling estate.
The wrangles, she added, pitted her mother against her stepmother over management of the estate.
Ms Chesiyna claimed that she was assaulted by the MP in Nakuru as she sought to repossess a lorry she claimed belonged to her late father.
In March 2022, a short video emerged online of the MP ‘ejecting’ a group of police officers who were on patrol on the KFA-Showground road, accusing them of trespassing.
Mr Arama claimed that the police, who had parked their vehicle on the side of the road, were from Nakuru East and that they were trespassing in Nakuru West.
“Bwana OCPD, niko na watu yako hapa West, nataka uongee nao ni kama hawajui boundary iko wapi, what are they doing here?” (I am here with some of your officers, they don’t seem to know where the boundary lies),” he said in a phone call to their boss.
“Hapa ni Nakuru West, si Nakuru East. Hii gari sitaki kuiona hapa (I don’t want to see you here),” he said, threatening to mobilise members of the public to forcibly eject the officers from the scene. The officers hurriedly drove away.
And on June 29, Mr Arama was among three Nakuru MPs questioned over alleged links to criminal gangs in the city. He was questioned alongside Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) and David Gikaria (Nakuru East).
These are just a few of the infamous incidents that the MP has been involved in.
But the MP has been praised for development projects in his constituency, among them roads, street lighting and schools.
“Mr Arama is a development-oriented leader and a philanthropist. He has created employment for hundreds of young people in his constituency and within Nakuru and paid school fees for children from poor backgrounds,” said Mr John Momanyi, a constituent.
“He also comes to the rescue of patients with outstanding medical bills. He is a true leader of Nakuru County.”
Ahead of the August 9 General Election, the controversial MP is now walking a tightrope, after the Nairobi anti-graft court ruled that he should spend six months in jail or pay a Sh1.5 million fine.
Mr Arama was found guilty of attempted fraud.
Chief Magistrate Victor Wakumile also sentenced three former Nakuru land officers in the same case. The three – John Mwaura, Daniel Nyantika and Charles Birundu – were also given an optional fine of Sh1,040,000 each.
The lawyer who acted in the transaction, Kennedy Onkoba, will serve the same period in prison or pay a fine of Sh560,000.
The court said none of the suspects benefited directly from the transaction and the title deed for the land was returned to the complainant.
In their mitigation, the suspects had pleaded with the court to consider non-custodial sentences.
Mr Arama’s latest tribulations now threaten his political career, which now hangs in the balance, as he risks losing his certificate to vie in the August 9 General Election.
“The MP is walking a tightrope because the decision by the court will determine if he will defend his seat or not in the forthcoming polls,” said governance expert Joel Ombati.
“If a person moves to court or the political parties tribunal and seeks revocation of his certificate, his political career will be in jeopardy. He can, however, move swiftly and launch an appeal against the sentence.”
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had urged three High Court judges to permanently bar the legislator from holding public office following his conviction and sentence.
The EACC has appealed to justices David Majanja, Murungi Thande and Enock Chacha Mwita to bar Mr Arama from presenting himself for election.
“Mr Arama has been convicted in a Sh60 million land fraud case and should not be allowed to contest any elective seat,” the EACC urged the three judges.
Mr Arama and his co-accused were charged with committing the offences between August 3 and 11 in 2015.
Prosecutors said the two conspired to defraud Ahmed Muhammad Nisar of his plot in Nakuru municipality.
The two are said to have pretended that they were carrying out a genuine land transfer of the plot (Nakuru Municipality Block 6/95) to Samuel Otara Arama.
The MP was charged with fraudulently acquiring land and conspiracy to commit fraud.
He was also charged with making a land sale agreement without lawful authority and purporting it to have been signed by Yusuf Mustafa Ratemo.
In another count, Mr Arama was charged with uttering a land sale agreement to EACC investigators purporting it to have been signed by Mr Ratemo.
Mr Arama has served as a member of the National Assembly for Nakuru West since 2013, when he was elected under ODM.
He later defected to the ruling Jubilee Party and was cleared by the IEBC to defend his seat in the August 9 polls.
Mr Arama attended Nairobi Technical High School and worked as an accounts clerk at the Ministry of Public Works before joining politics.
He was also managing director of Ortama Electrical Supplies and Scomic Computers Stationeries.