Hassan Joho: We will deal with ODM legislators who support Finance Bill 2024

Hassan Joho

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) warned its members in the National Assembly against supporting the Finance Bill 2024, which proposes heavy taxes on essential goods consumed by Kenyans.

ODM Deputy Party leader Hassan Joho stated that the party's stance is that the Bill, introduced by the Kenya Kwanza government, is regressive and should be opposed to prevent Kenyans from suffering under punitive taxes.

"We have emphasised previously that every party upholds principles and values, and as ODM, we stand for certain beliefs. If someone fails to comprehend this, we will deal with them," he remarked.

Mr Joho who is also the former Mombasa governor, reiterated the party's unwavering opposition to the Bill, describing it as oppressive and harmful to both the population and businesses in the nation.

He has also urged parliamentarians from various political groups, including ODM, Azimio coalition, and Kenya Kwanza, to come together in rejecting the Finance Bill.

Mr Joho who spoke after attending Eid-Ul-Adha prayers at Ummu Kulthum Mosque in Kizingo, Mombasa emphasised the importance of prioritising the well-being of the people and listening to their concerns, urging legislators to set aside political affiliations and listen to the public's voice.

Oppose Finance Bill

“This is not about ODM but all political parties. People must step out of the shadows of their parties and oppose the Finance Bill. I urge leaders, especially lawmakers, to please heed the people's voices. The public is speaking loudly, but leaders are not attentive. I wonder if their ears are clogged with wax; we might need to get earbuds and deliver them,” stated Mr Joho.

Mr Joho's plea comes at a time when the nation is grappling with challenging circumstances due to the looming threat of increased taxes and its repercussions on daily lives, prompting civil societies and Kenyans to demand a thorough reassessment of partisan loyalties in favour of the common good.

The legislators are set to consider the Appropriations Bill, 2024, and the Finance Bill, 2024, on Tuesday, June 18 or Wednesday, June 19.

Key issues in the Bill include the proposed 2.5 per cent motor vehicle tax and the 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on bread as suggested by the National Treasury.

The controversial Sh347 billion tax proposal has sparked discussions in the country, with the public urging its rejection. A demonstration named “Occupy Parliament” has already been planned in opposition to the Bill.

On Sunday, Mr Joho criticised a faction of Kenya Kwanza leaders who have stated they are solely accountable to President William Ruto.

"It should not be a matter of blindly supporting the party's agenda just because I belong to UDA or ODM. As a representative of the people, it is essential to heed the voices of the public, engage in parliamentary discussions, and advocate for the people's best interests. This transcends mere political party concerns," he remarked.

However, considering the parliamentary composition, the plea to reject the Finance Bill might not yield much if the Kenya Kwanza coalition, holding the majority in the assembly, chooses to endorse and overwhelmingly pass the bill.

Mr Joho urged all lawmakers to put aside their political loyalties and unite against the Bill for the benefit of Kenyans already burdened by the high cost of living.

"As ODM, we have a defined stance as a party, but we acknowledge that pursuing this independently may not secure the necessary backing. Hence, we invite other leaders to collaborate. The primary focus should be on understanding and addressing the sentiments of your constituents because fundamentally, the role of a legislator is to represent the electorate," he emphasised.

He criticised Dr Ruto, stating that his governance is leading to business closures and harming the economy.

Hero-worship President Ruto

He said that the Kenya Kwanza government aims to foster a dependency culture through initiatives like bursaries and social programmes, encouraging people to hero-worship President Ruto as their saviour instead of empowering them to thrive in their businesses.

"What the Kenya Kwanza government is doing is perpetuating poverty among our people. What is your motive? Do you want to keep them poor to maintain control, or are you using handouts to gain favour? Are you intentionally impoverishing them to ensure their reliance on you?" he questioned.

Mr Joho highlighted the significant number of business closures under President Ruto's leadership, attributing it to detrimental economic policies that are impoverishing Kenyans and fostering dependence on government programmes.

"If you examine the data, the closure of established businesses far outweighs new openings. Those overlooking the Finance Bill are likely pursuing personal interests, but the reality is that they are harming the people of Kenya," Mr Joho emphasised.

The ODM deputy party leader stressed the urgency of addressing the Finance Bill over engaging in debates like the 'one-man, one-shilling' being pushed by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

He warned that the bill poses a severe threat to numerous businesses in Kenya, exacerbating poverty levels.