DPP loses bid to bar media as Waiguru testifies in Sh791m NYS theft case

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru at the Milimani Law Courts on May 19, 2021. She is a prosecution witness in the case facing former PS Peter Mangiti and 24 others who are accused of stealing Sh791 million from NYS.

Photo credit: Richard Munguti | Nation Media Group

A court in Nairobi has declined a request by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji to bar the media from covering a case in which Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru is a witness.

Ms Waiguru is testifying in a case where former PS Peter Mangiti and 24 others are accused of stealing Sh791 million from the National Youth Service (NYS).

Milimani Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi Wednesday dismissed the application by prosecutor Jalson Makori, on behalf of the DPP, seeking to lock out the media when Ms Waiguru takes the witness stand.

Mr Makori told the magistrate that he had been instructed to urge the court to bar the media due to the Covid-19 rules. He added that there were fears that the Kirinyaga governor’s testimony might be quoted out of context.

The prosecuting counsel said the court will be crowded, in contravention of the Covid-19 rules.

Great public interest

But Mr Andayi dismissed the plea by the DPP to lock the media out the case, saying it is of great public interest.

“This case is of great public interest and it would be unreasonable to keep the media away,” ruled Mr Andayi.

The magistrate further said due to the fears of spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the court will ensure there is fresh air in the tent where the case is being tried.

“I will ensure everyone keeps social distance as required under the Ministry of Health regulations and the tent flaps will be opened to ensure there is enough air,” Mr Andayi ruled.

The magistrate said speakers will be positioned in strategic positions so that the public will follow the proceedings well.

“You members of the media you will have to position yourselves in strategic places within the tent from where you will follow the proceedings,” Mr Andayo said.

Denied charges

Mr Mangiti, former NYS boss Nelson Githinji and 24 others have denied multiple charges which gave rise to the loss of over Sh791 million.

Lawyer dead

The case was scheduled to be heard Wednesday and Ms Waiguru was ready to take the witness box when it was adjourned following the death of one of the lead lawyers, Joseph Wagara.

Mr Wagara was representing two suspects — businessman Ben Gethi and Mr Samuel Waichenje.

Mr Gethi and Mr Waichenje applied to have the case adjourned to enable them engage another lawyer and also get files from Mr Wagara’s law firm.

“I urge this court to grant me two weeks to engage another lawyer and also get my files from the deceased’s law firm,” Mr Gethi urged.

The prosecution did not object to the request.

While allowing the two suspects to engage new lawyers Mr Andayi said, “It will make no sense to proceed with the hearing since all the witnesses are in court when the lawyer of the two suspects has passed on and they need representation.”

The magistrate said the law allows a suspect in a criminal trial to be represented by an advocate of his or her choice.

The case was adjourned to August 5, 2021 when Ms Waiguru will testify.

The theft at the NYS allegedly occurred when Ms Waiguru was Cabinet secretary for Devolution and Planning.

All the accused have denied the charges and are out on bond.