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Two-hour night drama that split MPs in Linturi probe

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Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi (right) with his lawyer Muthomi Thiankolu before the select committee handling a motion to impeach him at County Hall in Nairobi.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

Sharp political division rocked the select committee handling the impeachment motion against Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi, leading to the dropping of two key witnesses, a move that could bring huge relief to the embattled CS.

A two-hour meeting called by the committee on Thursday night at around 8pm to decide on whether to call Crops Development Principal Secretary Paul Rono and KEL Chemicals Chief Operating Officer Devesh Patel to give evidence ended with more divisions along political lines.

KEL Chemicals is accused of being behind the supply of the fake fertiliser Mr Linturi is being impeached for.

The committee’s meeting in the boardroom on the first floor of County Hall on Thursday night ended at 10pm with no agreement, forcing a vote that saw the majority carry the day. Even a 15-minute break to try and arrive at consensus flopped.

Nine members of the committee voted against inviting the PS. They are TJ Kajwang (Ruaraka), George Murugara (Tharaka), Njeri Maina (Kirinyaga), Yusuf Farah (Wajir West), Rachel Nyamai (Kitui West),Kassim Tandaza (Matuga), Malulu Injendi (Malava),Samwel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi) and chairperson Naomi Waqo (Marsabit).

Only Kathiani MP Robert Mbui and Busia Woman Rep Catherine Omanyo voted to have the PS appear before the committee.

On the invitation of Mr Patel, there was little change on the list as eight members of the committee voted to oppose it. They include Mr Murugara, Ms Maina, Ms Nyamai, Mr Tandaza, Mr Injendi, Mr Chepkonga and Ms Waqo. Only Mr Kajwang, Mr Farah and Mr Mbui voted to have him invited.

Although the chairperson said a detailed report will be given on why they voted to lock out the two key witnesses, sources within the committee told Saturday Nation of pushy engagements that marred the meeting, necessitating the vote.

During the meeting, while some MPs talked of the strict timelines that they have to deliver the report, others expressed fear the PS and Mr Patel would have strengthened the case against the CS.

Some were unsure whether the two witnesses were coming to testify against or for the motion.

A section of the committee also argued that since Dr Rono’s name came up prominently during the two-day hearings, it was only fair to call him to defend himself and give vital information that would have helped the committee to make its decision.

During the hearings, three letters by the PS dated December 5, 2023, January 22 and March 20, 2024, to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) on the fake fertiliser featured prominently and were used to ask Mr Linturi questions.

Mr Linturi said when the issue of fake fertiliser came up, he was abroad but was in constant communication with Dr Rono.

According to our sources, those who wanted Dr Rono called also argued that since Mr Linturi had said he is not the accounting officer of the ministry, the PS should have been called to give his side of the story.

While making his final submissions to the committee, Bumula MP Jack Wamboka—who is the mover of the motion to impeach Mr Linturi—said the decision on the calling of the two witnesses was a reflection of how the voting took place in the House.

“If from the word go some members opposed this motion and then went ahead to sit in the select committee, what will change? Nothing!” the MP said.

Mr Wamboka told the committee that Kenyans are watching them to see the final decision they will make, saying the moral grounds for the removal of Mr Linturi had been set.

“Whichever decision this committee will make, we are already victorious and it will haunt people forever,” Mr Wamboka said. “To the public and farmers, I, Jack Wamboka, have tried and Kenyans will never forget the actions of this select committee.”

Mr Wamboka’s lead counsel, John Khaminwa, told the committee that they had proved the case against the CS beyond reasonable doubt and as it retreats to write its report, it should be bold and make the right decision.

“Let us be bold and make a decision. Linturi is not an honest man, send him home,” Mr Khaminwa told the committee.

Ms Asha Bashir, another lawyer in Mr Wamboka’s team, pointed out that it would be disastrous for the people of Kenya to work hard only to be let down by the CS, whom she said slept on the job.

“There is no witch-hunt or politics here. It’s about taking personal responsibility,” Ms Bashir said.

But Mr Linturi’s lawyer, Muthomi Thiankolu, in his final submissions, called on the committee to dismiss the motion saying his client has been a victim of bad publicity.

He told the team that a CS cannot be dismissed just because the masses are baying for his blood.

“Justice is not supposed to be delivered with the seduction of a baying mob. The fact that masses are baying for his blood out there is not relevant for the judges to make their final decision,” Dr Thiankolu said.

“You are being told to crucify him (Linturi) because of 149 votes. Even if they were 349, that is still not the standard. This committee should rely only on facts presented before it,” the lawyer added.

Dr Thiankolu told the committee that as it retreats to write its report, it should remember that whatever decision it makes, it will also be judged the same way it will judge Mr Linturi.

Ms Waqo assured the parties that the committee’s report would be based on the evidence presented before it.

“We shall analyse all evidence submitted to the committee and make our recommendations according to Article 152 (9) of the constitution,” she said.

The committee will table its report on Monday during a special sitting of the National Assembly.

If the committee finds the three allegations facing Mr Linturi unsubstantiated, no further proceedings shall be taken.

If the allegations are substantiated by the committee, the CS will be given an opportunity to defend himself against the charges and the House will vote to either approve or reject the resolution.

If the House votes to approve the resolution of the committee, the Speaker shall deliver the resolution of the House to the President who shall then dismiss Mr Linturi.