State House talks that sealed Sonko’s fate

State House talks that sealed Sonko’s fate

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A meeting held at State House and attended by powerful government officials most of whom have been at loggerheads with Nairobi governor Mike Sonko sealed the fate of the flamboyant county boss.

Highly placed sources revealed that the meeting was attended by Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho, State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua, among others and was aimed at informing Uhuru Kenyatta on the planned arrest of Sonko. We could not establish if Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and the man in charge of Directorate of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, attended.

Since the arrest of Sonko was to be a high octane affair, and would attract national and international press, Uhuru was to be informed to avoid being caught offguard. Remember Sonko is the governor of Nairobi city, one of the leading economic hubs in Africa and well-known across the world.

Haji and Kinoti

It is a home of multinationals that operate in parts of Africa and an economic hub despite the country going through serious economic crisis under Uhuru’s watch. The president had to be briefed of the impending arrest.

After Uhuru gave the greenlight, it was all systems go as those involved planned how to execute the arrest. First, fear was Sonko has a network in the city and his arrest was likely to lead into demonstrations in the county. A special meeting of top city security officers was summoned. It was agreed, first that the anti-riot police be on standby and when Haji was announcing the planned arrest of Sonko and other suspects, they be ready to counter any eventuality.

Further, it was agreed that plaincloths officers be planted and monitor operations, homes of those perceived to surround Sonko, more so, those who were behind the Wanjiku movement the governor had formed to counter Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga factions within Jubilee.

A special unit under Nairobi county police operations was formed to hunt and arrest the governor.

In the past, Sonko had claimed Kibicho, Mbugua and State House operative Nancy Gitau were pressurising him to appoint their crony as the deputy governor.

He further claimed they had hatched a plot to clip his powers and were also behind the woes facing William Ruto.

Insiders add that the meeting explored ways to counter Sonko’s habit of ferrying goons to Integrity Centre to intimidate those carrying out investigations.

We have information that since the investigations on the graft began, Sonko has been under 24-hour surveillance.

The task of leading the police hunt was entrusted on head of operations Nairobi area that on October this year, led police in storming City Hall finance offices to effect a court order on controversial tender award payments.

The trail was simultaneously being undertaken by EACC and DCI detectives who trailed Sonko for close to 15 hours before he was finally arrested in Voi town.

One thing the security team was privy to was the fact that arresting Sonko at day time in Nairobi was not to be easy as his supporters would react and also he had informers within the police force. Talk is rife within the police that Sonko left his Upper Hill residence after being tipped off on the impending arrest by an insider in the force.

Other sources say that Sonko was not aware of the forthcoming of his arrest and was travelling to meet workers on his coast construction site with his bodyguards in a Mercedes Benz and a trailing Toyota Land Cruiser V8 when he was arrested in Voi after a 13-minute scuffle in which Sonko’s team was overpowered.

In fact, the source claimed that it was while on road that Sonko received a call from a friend briefing him on Haji’s press conference that got him dumbfounded and that is why the phone signal was traced to Voi. Otherwise, the source questioned why a man aware of arrest could switch his mobile phone on while on the run.

It is the scuffle that saw Hillary Mutyambai to order a team of police and a chopper, which was in Mombasa, to ferry the governor back to the capital.

The arrest followed the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji’s statement that he has sufficient evidence to warrant the prosecution of Sonko as well as senior City Hall officials following a review of the investigation file handed to the DPP by the EACC.

In a video taken during the arrest, Sonko is seen resisting arrest as officers struggle to take him into the chopper.

Sonko is allegedly held at the Integrity House where he spent his weekend. By the time of going to press, those fighting the embattled governor were contemplating filing a petition in court to have him taken back to Shimo La Tewa prison to complete his jail term.

They also want to charge Sonko for resisting arrest and giving false information to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

On the issue of money-laundering, the state want to make an application before court to freeze Sonko’s bank accounts and those associated with his family members and confiscate his properties running into millions of shillings.

The question is if Sonko controls billions of shillings in the county budget, how could he be linked to stealing of millions of shillings, one of his close associates asked, linking the arrest to witch-hunting.

Aside from Sonko, insiders add that Uhuru has reconstituted the Nairobi Regeneration Committee to advise him on the next course of action once Sonko is charged with graft. But those opposed to Sonko want MCAs to pass an impeachment motion against him during his trying moments.

Nairobi county speaker Beatrice Elachi will act as governor since Sonko has not named a deputy since the Polycarp Igathe’s resignation two years ago.

However, sources say that a section at State House are pushing for the return of Igathe as governor on grounds that when he resigned, Sonko never acknowledged his resignation letter and forwarded it officially to the assembly for the MCAs to discuss.

But the move could trigger a by-election in Nairobi as the speaker can only act for a period of 60 days.

Already, Haji has given an indication that he would seek to have the governor barred from accessing his office.

The DPP successfully managed to have governors Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu) barred from accessing their offices.

This has led to deputy governor James Nyoro taking over in Kiambu causing a political nightmare for Waititu and his government.

The only fall back now for Nairobi if Sonko is barred from accessing his office is the constitution which stipulates what should happen in the absence of a governor and deputy governor.

Article 182 (4) states that if a vacancy occurs in the office of county governor, and that of deputy county governor, or if the deputy county governor is unable to act, the speaker of the county assembly shall act as county governor.

According to sources, one of the options being floated to the president is the dissolution of the county government to pave way for the appointment of technocrats to run the city.

According to the constitution, the president may suspend a county government–(a) in an emergency arising out of internal conflict or war; or (b) in any other exceptional circumstances.

It further states that a county government shall not be suspended under clause (1) (b) unless an independent commission of inquiry has investigated allegations against the county government, the president is satisfied that the allegations are justified and the senate has authorised the suspension.

It further states that during a suspension under this article, arrangements shall be made for the performance of the functions of a county government in accordance with an Act of parliament.

The law says the senate may at any time terminate the suspension and a suspension under this article shall not extend beyond a period of ninety days.

Further on the expiry of the period provided for under clause (5), elections for the relevant county government shall be held.

Insiders add that the president will use the report to be presented to him by the Nairobi Regeneration Committee to justify the dissolution of the county government bearing in mind,city MCAs have also in past ingaged if fierce physical fights tainting the image of the country..

Formed 2017, the Nairobi Regeneration Committee was meant to regain the ‘Green City in the Sun’ status but lack of funds, supremacy battles, mistrust amongst agencies and infightings were among the issues that stalled the project.

The team was co-chaired by Tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala and Sonko.

The programme was between the national government and the county government and focused on key economic and social sectors.

It was expected to significantly improve the livelihoods of Nairobi residents.

Besides Balala, other CSs roped in the programme were from Infrastructure, Energy, Water, Environment and Lands.

According to sources, the team is likely to recommend the dissolution of the county government due to internal wars pitting the MCAs and failure to offer services.

The team is studying a recommendation by Tharaka Nithi governor Muthomi Njuki for Nairobi county to be dissolved and its operations taken over by the national government.

The capital city, according to the recommendations, is such an important place to be left in the hands of a governor and it is often an inconvenience for the president, whose seat of power is Nairobi, to have to stoop down to a governor for consultations before implementing his agenda.

Depoliticisation of Nairobi will see it operate like United States’ seat of political power, Washington DC, which is not classified as a county.

In the past, there have been other attempts by the senate to disband Nairobi and have it as a metropolitan under the national government with the latest attempt a bill fronted by Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot.

Former Murang’a senator Kembi Gitura had also brought a similar proposal in the 11th parliament but it was rejected because of perceived political undertones.