Why Swazuri not likely to chair any NLC board sitting
- Other senior NLC staff set to testify against their boss include acting director of Finance Bernard Cherutich.
- Following his arrest, his deputy, Ms Mbagaya, with whom they have had a frosty relationship swiftly assumed the position of acting NLC chair.
- To minimise further conflicts at the commission, our sources say that staff are co-operating with him.
The embattled chairman of the National Land Commission (NLC) Muhammad Swazuri might never chair another sitting of the Lands’ board until his term ends in mid-February next year.
This is because a majority of the NLC board members are lined up to testify against him in a case in which he is accused of irregularly paying out Sh221.3 million in standard gauge railway (SGR) land compensation.
The Sunday Nation has learnt that NLC vice chairperson Abigail Mbagaya and commissioners Abdulkadir Khalif, Clement Lenachuru, Emma Njogu, Rose Musyoka, Silas Kinoti, and Tomiik Konyimbih will testify against him. Only commissioner Samuel Tororei will not testify against Prof Swazuri.
Other senior NLC staff set to testify against their boss are acting director of Finance Bernard Cherutich and acting director of Legal Affairs Brian Ikol.
“Given the circumstances, he (Swazuri) cannot purport to convene a meeting of the board because he has no moral authority to do so, and we will not attend if he attempts to call one” said a commissioner who asked not be named.
Early this month, the High Court allowed Prof Swazuri to return to the commission unconditionally, after he and other senior NLC staff were arrested and charged in August over the Sh221 SGR land compensation.
Also charged are the commission's chief executive Chavangi Aziz Tom, two senior directors, Ms Salome Munubi (Valuation and taxation) and Mr Francis Mugo (Finance) and Ms Gladys Mwikali Muyanga, a land registrar.
Following his arrest, his deputy, Ms Mbagaya, with whom they have had a frosty relationship swiftly assumed the position of acting NLC chair, a move that Swazuri bitterly protested, saying it was meant to “replace me through the back-door.”
On August 29, Principal Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi ruled that the NLC chairman, being a constitutional office holder, could not be removed from office for being charged with a criminal offence.
ACCESS TO OFFICE
The magistrate however directed that he be allowed to access the office after informing the commission’s chief executive and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), terms which Swazuri claimed were too restrictive.
Early this month, Justice Hedwig Ong'udi lifted the stiff conditions when he ruled that unlike other public officers who are suspended upon being charged with corruption and economic crimes, constitutional office holders like Prof Swazuri are exempted.
Justice Ong'undi ruled that according to that, a constitutional office holder can only be removed from office if he resigns or is convicted of a criminal offence.
"From my analysis above and especially on the issue of operationalisation of the order in respect to Swazuri, I am satisfied that the trial court did not assess the practical impact of the orders it gave in respect to him," ruled Justice Ong’udi.
Although he was allowed to go back to work, Justice Ong’udi directed Swazuri not to interact with and interfere with the witnesses at his workplace or any other witnesses.
“We are witnesses against him, so what exactly will he be discussing with us if he decides to call a meeting of the board?” posed another commissioner who also did not wish to be named.
Prof Swazuri, is also required to take an undertaking not to interfere with the records and documents relevant to the case as that would lead to automatic cancellation of his bond.
Our sources said that Prof Swazuri has written to several government agencies informing them that they should deal with him directly now that he is back in office and not vice chair Ms Mbagaya.
To minimise further conflicts at the commission, our sources say that staff are co-operating with him, by giving him whatever documents he requests.
“But what will he do with them? Nothing without our say-so,” said one of the commissioners who spoke to us anonymously.
The standoff between Prof Swazuri and the commissioners will likely render the NLC a lame duck in the final four months before the expiry of their term on February 19, 2019.