Wajir MCAs on Tuesday voted to impeach Governor Mohammed Abdi on allegations including misuse of public funds and abuse of office.
The ward representatives ignored a court order and went ahead to discuss the impeachment motion. They also voted to extend the sitting to midnight to allow them enough time to discuss the matter.
Earlier in the day, there was drama outside the county assembly after lawyers representing Governor Abdi were locked out as they attempted to serve MCAs with a court order suspending the planned impeachment.
A Meru High Court on Monday suspended the impeachment until Thursday, when it is expected to issue directions on a case the governor has filed.
Meru Presiding Judge Justice Edward Muriithi ordered the assembly to halt the intended process until both parties appear before him Thursday afternoon.
The governor’s lawyers led by Mr Ndegwa Njiru and Ndegwa Mwangi remained outside the facility with security agencies insisting they were under orders not to open the gates to anyone.
“We have been unable to access the precinct but have pinned the court orders outside the facility. The OCPD (divisional police commander) is helping us to get in and serve the speaker and the clerk,” Mr Njiru said.
The lawyer said his team needed to access the assembly to be able to serve the motion mover, the clerk and the speaker.
“The mover is inside the assembly but we are unable to effect the service as the tradition demands. We have pinned the orders outside which is so conspicuous for anybody to notice,” he said.
When the assembly resumed in the afternoon, Speaker Ibrahim Ahmed Yakub ruled that none of the three court orders issued could bar the MCAs from playing the role of debating and impeaching the governor.
He allowed the two lawyers to make brief comments concerning their client’s stand on the motion but quickly cut Mr Njiru short, ordering him to sit down after the lawyer attempted to lecture the assembly on the importance of court orders.
Mr Njiru and his colleague walked out but placed the court orders on the assembly floor.
County Commissioner Jacob Narengo bolted out of his office after realising that the lawyers planned to serve him too.
“We have orders for the county commissioner because he has a responsibility to ensure security of the whole exercise,” Mr Njiru said after failing to reach Mr Narengo.
The petition was filed under a certificate of urgency by Wajir residents Aden Ibrahim Mohammed, Omar Jele Abdi, Bishar Ahmed Hussein, Safiya Mahamed Abdi and Yussuf Ibrahim Dimbil.
The governor is listed as an interested party.
Justice Muriithi ordered the petitioners to serve the county assembly, clerk Shalle Sheikh, Speaker Yakub and Tulatula MCA Abdullahi Issack, who is the motion’s mover, so that they can prepare their responses for an inter partes hearing.
The governor’s lawyers warned that any MCA who would participate in a motion to impeach the governor would be held personally responsible.
“Any officer or MCA who purports to execute the motion will personally be cited for contempt,” the lawyer warned.
Mr Issack said nothing would stop the county lawmakers from exercising their mandate.
“The motion will go on. We expect the governor and his lawyers to respond to the allegations raised against him,” he said by phone.
In statement sent to newsrooms, Governor Abdi accused his political detractors of planning to elbow him out in the next general election.
The governor noted that there is room for the raised issues to be solved without impeachment.
“Members of the County Assembly have not exhausted all the existing avenues to resolve disputes with the County Executive but have instead played into the hands of individuals with political intent to destabilise the operations of the county government,” he claimed.
The petitioners had particularly urged the court to stop Mr Issack from moving the motion for impeachment and stopping the MCAs from debating it.
They also wanted the speaker and his entire office restrained from presiding over the process pending hearing and determination of their application.
They told the court that the county assembly of Wajir was about to debate a defective impeachment motion and said favourable orders would safeguard the governor’s rights and fundamental freedoms.
The petitioners claim the speaker, in his own name, issued a notice of impeachment to the governor yet he is supposed to be neutral in the process as he is only an ex-officio member of the assembly.
“The notice can only be issued by a member who has obtained the approval of the speaker, not the speaker himself,’ the petition states.
“The speaker has no statutory power under Standing Order 67 (3), as read with section 33 (1) of the County Government Act, to issue the said notification of the notice of impeachment of the governor.”
Mr Njiru also told the court that the county assembly had not demonstrated that the said notice of motion had received the support of one third of the MCAs or had been subjected to public participation.
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