Vetting: CJ nominee Martha Koome defends self against LSK’s objection to her hiring

Chief Justice nominee Martha Koome has defended herself against objections to her recruitment by the Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi based on her handling of a dispute between the National Produce and Cereals Board and Erad, a company associated with the late Jacob Juma.

Before the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC), Koome said her decision, which was shared with other bench members saved the country from losing public funds.

Justice Koeme said Havi questioned her ruling in 2012 in a case where Erad supplied maize to the  Cereals Board and obtained a decree to be paid some money but the board appealed the decision.

While applying their discretion, Koome said the bench issued a stay of execution to stop the board from paying the money until the case was heard.

She said she was vindicated after some of the directors of Erad were later charged with fraud and jailed for many years.

“The case has gone on and the directors have been charged with fraud and this vindicates us because it is our order that stopped the country from losing public money.”

Havi had questioned Koome’s handling of the case and her suitability to succeed CJ David Maraga.

On the case involving the repeat presidential election in 2017 where High Court had ruled that the Returning Officers and their deputies were illegally in office, Koome said they suspended the order based on the importance of the matter.

Activist Khelef Khalifa questioned her suitability because she was among judges who ordered the suspension of a High Court ruling on the eve of the repeat election in 2017.

Koome also said the matter was dispensed with after the Supreme Court supported their decision that the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

“I received a call from the Registrar of the Court of Appeal and we heard the matter and arrived at a decision which was later confirmed by Supreme Court,” Koome said.

High Court Judge George Odunga had declared that all the 271 returning officers and their deputies were illegally appointed just a day before the 2017 repeat presidential election however, Court of Appeal judges Koome, Fatuma Sichale, and Erastus Githinji suspended the order and the elections went on.

Koome also vowed to ensure the Judiciary is not influenced by either the Executive or the Legislature in discharging its duties.

She said with regard to service delivery, she would ensure the  Judiciary works with other arms of government to serve Kenyans.

“In service delivery, we require the support of Parliament for allocation of resources to the Judiciary and the Executive for enforcing and implementing some of our decisions,” she told the committee.

The committee chaired by Kangema MP Muturi Kigano is vetting the judge to assess her suitability to head the Judiciary.

Koome was nominated by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and her name approved by President Uhuru Kenyatta after emerging top among nine other candidates interviewed for the post.

In a letter dated April 28, the president asked National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to fast-track the vetting.

President Kenyatta also attached the required documents including the original copy of the JSC report on the recruitment and selection process for the CJ and Justice Koome’s Curriculum Vitae, which were forwarded to JLAC.

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