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Housing Levy: The day Okiya Omtata publicly dared Ruto to his face

By Winnie Mabel November 28th, 2023 2 min read

Kenyans are currently in a celebratory mood after the High Court ruled that a Housing Levy controversially imposed on citizens was irrational and unconstitutional.

In their ruling, a three-judge bench found that the Housing Levy broke several Acts and parts of the Constitution and barred the government from collecting any more taxes from salaried workers via the Kenya Revenue Authority.

The Housing Levy fund was heavily opposed- especially by salaried workers and the opposition- as it only targeted formally employed salaried Kenyans while leaving out those in the informal sector.

The government said its intention with this Fund was to obtain funds for the government to build low-cost housing for all Kenyans, effectively ending the existence of slums in the country and providing employment for the youth.

As Kenyans continue celebrating following renowned civil activist and Busia Senator Okiya Omtata’s victory against the government, Nairobi News takes a look back at the day Senator Omtatah directly told President William Ruto he would take him to court for enforcing the controversial Housing Levy.

Also read: Kenyans praise Okiya Omtatah after Court declares Housing Levy ‘unconstitutional’

“I have looked at the Finance Bill (Amendment) 2023 and it goes against the Constitution of Kenya in about six Articles. I am asking you to respect the Constitution and remove all of them because if you don’t, we are going to fight it out in court. There is nothing to complain about, but there is everything to fight for. But let us avoid that fight. Let people not fool you here. Let people not deceive you.

There are issues in that Constitution where even the Supreme Court has pronounced itself that need to be honored. We have things in that Constitution- like this Housing Levy- that were in the previous version, and I was the one who went to court to fight against it until it went back to being voluntary. Now, you want me to go back to court? Mr President, make things easier for us. We want to support you, I want you to lead all parts of this country because if you succeed- and I always pray for you when I wake up in the morning- Kenya is better off for everybody,” said Senator Omtatah during a public address in which President William Ruto was in attendance.

He went on to tell the President that if he failed, all Kenyans would fail, revealing that in his intercessions, he often prayed for him, the Pope, and Kenya’s religious leaders.

“I plead with you. I’ve already prepared a petition to go to court. When I heard you were coming to Busia County, I did not file it last week. I held on. I pray that we look at this Bill. If we can avoid having to go to court and fight, we avoid. But if people are coming here to say that everything is okay and what have you, then next week we shall be fighting in court; and its bad for friends to fight,” concluded Senator Omtatah as the audience erupted in laughter.

President Ruto visited Busia County twice in May and August 2023 while the Finance Bill was still being debated and then controversially passed by Kenya Kwanza allies.