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Sonko’s fate now in the hands of 11-member Senate committee

The impeachment of Nairobi governor Mike Sonko will be considered by an 11-member special committee of the Senate.

On Tuesday, the Senate Business Committee (SBC), which schedules House business, opted for that route but the decision is subject to approval by the plenary when it convenes for a special sitting today afternoon.

Speaker Kenneth Lusaka confirmed that the SBC had resolved to try the governor through the committee even as ward reps expressed confidence that they have a water-tight case against Mr Sonko.

“It’s the committee way,” the Speaker told the Nation yesterday. He did not elaborate. A motion to that effect will be drafted and presented to the House for approval when the Speaker communicates the decision of the assembly to impeach the governor this afternoon.

“We have proposed the committee way and it is up to the House to make its decision,” Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo said.

The two spoke as it emerged that Mr Sonko’s tactic to avoid appointing a deputy may come in handy when the House starts the impeachment proceedings.

The Nation learnt that Mr Sonko may survive the axe because of concerns that his removal may occasion a by-election because of the vacancy in the office of the deputy governor.

Senators the Nation spoke to argued that, while the crimes levelled against the governor are impeachable offences, the timing of his trial is not right as it is likely to occasion an election at the same time the country is facing a possible referendum.

“The last thing we want is an election in Nairobi at this point and time. We want to avoid it at all costs,” a Kieleweke-allied senator told the Nation yesterday.

Mr Sonko has refused to appoint a deputy since the resignation of Polycarp Igathe in January 2019.

Deputy governor nominee

Section 32A of the County Governments Act provides that once a vacancy occurs in the office of county governor, an election should be held within 60 days.

This means that, should the Senate oust the governor, the election to replace him must be held towards the end of February 2021, just a few days to the April date BBI proponents want to have a referendum.

“The question of the by election is having a serious mitigating factor for the governor,” the senator said, adding that it will be easy to impeach the governor if the by election is avoided.

Among the issues the senators are considering is the High Court petition that suspended the vetting of Anne Kananu Mwenda, the governor’s deputy governor nominee.

The court has heard submissions from the parties and what remains is the judgment which Justice Mumbi Ngugi promised to deliver on notice.

Among the issues the lawmakers are considering is, one, whether the county assembly can proceed to vet the nominee if the court finds her nomination was procedural and lawful and, two, whether Ms Mwenda can be adjudged to be a lawful appointed governor after the approval of the county assembly.

Finally, senators will consider whether the gazettement and swearing in of the nominee are mere administrative acts that can be executed in the absence of the governor in the likely event he is impeached.

The answers to these questions, according to a source, will be key in determining the fate of the first-term governor.

Mr Sonko was impeached on the Thursday last week with MCAs accusing him of, among other crimes, gross violation of the constitution and other laws, and abuse of office.