Housing levy unstoppable, President Ruto tells Raila

Ruto in Busia

President William Ruto (right) greets church leaders at Busia stadium during interdenominational prayer service on Sunday May 28.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation 

President William Ruto has stuck to his guns on the controversial plan to deduct workers’ salaries to fund the construction of affordable housing, urging MPs to pass the Finance Bill 2023 it in its current form even as Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah vowed to challenge it in court.

Dr Ruto urged Kenyans to rally behind the proposed three per cent levy, saying, Opposition leaders campaigning against it were earning up to Sh1 million a month in pensions.

Speaking in Busia County during an interdenominational prayer service, Dr Ruto claimed that Opposition leaders feared that the levy, if passed, would affect their monthly pensions.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party luminaries Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka are leading the onslaught against the Bill. Mr Omtatah yesterday claimed that the housing levy violates several provisions of the Constitution and warned that he would file a petition in court to challenge the Bill.

"Kenyans pay each of them [Opposition leaders] Sh1 million every month as pension, yet they claim to be unemployed. How can you earn Sh1 million every month and turn around to say you are unemployed," said Dr Ruto. Speaking at the same event, Mr Omtatah said: “The people around you [Dr Ruto] are not telling you the truth. The Finance Bill has many bad things that violate the Constitution and this may end up in court. I have already prepared a petition to go to court".

But Dr Ruto defended the Bill, saying, its implementation will boost the economy and create jobs. He urged the people of Busia to plead with their senator not take the matter to court.

He said 42 of the 47 counties had already provided land on which the houses will be built.

He hit out at Mr Odinga and the Azimio brigade for threatening to call for demonstrations, saying, it would lead to destruction of property.

“At least [Mr] Omtatah has not called for demonstrations [but] has offered to go to court," said Dr Ruto. He urged jobless Kenyans to ask MPs who will vote against the Bill to give them jobs.

He called on Mr Odinga's camp to offer constructive criticism and stop threatening him with demonstrations.

"I want to ask our opponents to be good. Let them not use our divisions to create chaos in the country. I am open to criticism and to being criticised. This will bring better ideas to move our country forward," Dr Ruto said.

Mr Omtatah said he had read the proposals in the Bill and noted that some were good for the country while others were bad.

“This is not the first time this housing levy has come up. [Former President] Uhuru Kenyatta brought it and I am the one who fought it until it was changed to a voluntary levy," said Mr Omtatah.

Sports Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ababu Namwamba advised the senator not to challenge the bill in court.

"As a lawyer, I advise you to now focus on the national platform of the Senate to represent the people. Get out of court now and articulate your issues," Mr Namwamba said.

Several legislators who attended the prayer service said they would vote in favour of the bill. They included Mary Emaase (Teso South, UDA), Oku Kaunya (Teso North, ODM), Geoffrey Mulanya (Nambale, Independent), Joseph Oyula (Butula, ODM) and Michael Muchira (Oljororok, Jubilee). Others were Susan Ngugi (Tharaka Nithi, TSP), Zachary Kwenya (Kinangop, Jubilee), Beatrice Adagala (Vihiga, ANC) and John Waluke (Sirisia, Jubilee).

Busia Governor Paul Otuoma (ODM), who hosted the event, said his administration was working with the national government. His counterpart in Bungoma, Mr Ken Lusaka, took the Opposition to task over the secession threats.

Last week, Azimio leaders warned that they would start collecting signatures and petition the United Nations to divide Kenya into two unless Dr Ruto apologised for comments made by his deputy, Mr Rigathi Gachagua, likening the country to a company in which some people had shares and others didn’t.

"We don't want to go down that road. Now we are talking about integration," said Mr Lusaka.

Ms Adagala echoed his sentiments, saying, she was disturbed by the threats from opposition leaders. She said Kenyans voted for Dr Ruto and warned that no amount of threats would stop the President from implementing his plans for the country.