Leaders from western Kenya have come to the defence of the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) after a section of Kakamega residents moved to court to block its implementation.
Two petitioners moved to court to block the enactment of the Kakamega County Assembly Lake Region Economic Bloc Act, 2018 arguing that its formation was unlawful and unconstitutional.
Mr Boniface Manda and Musa Ekaya jointly asked the court to block the county government of Kakamega from releasing Sh200 million to the regional bloc saying the move was purportedly enacted by the county assembly in contravention of the Constitution.
But leaders led by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said LREB is the most powerful bloc in the country aimed at turning around the lives of residents in the member counties.
“The formation of the economic blocs is one of the fruitful ideas since devolution came to existence in Kenya. The blocs will turn around the economies of the counties and should be supported by all leaders and nobody should derail the their implementation,” said Mr Wamalwa.
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said blocking the implementation of the bloc was taking the country backward.
“The objective of the bloc is to leverage the economies of scale and share resources to uplift the livelihoods of the communities within the said counties. It is spearheading the revival of cane industries in the region which have collapsed. Anyone blocking it is an enemy of development,” he said.
Kakamega Deputy Governor Philip Kutima said the Sh200 million was contained in the county budget which went through public participation forums across the 12 sub-counties before it was ratified by the assembly.
“In Mumias West Sub-County, the session was disrupted by the same people who have gone to court. It is unfortunate, that we have people who are always out to block development,” said Prof Kutima.
County Attorney Moses Sande said the county government was yet to be served with the orders recalling the money from the LREB.
Mr Manda said he was not opposed to the formation of the LREB.
“We want things done in the right manner. We want leaders to follow the Constitution,” said Mr Manda.
He said the speed at which things are moving at the LREB is doubtful and if not checked, will only benefit a few individuals and not taxpayers.
The petitioners, who are officials of Bunge la Haki Usawa na Maendeleo, a civil society organisation operating in Kakamega County, claim the devolved unit is not authorised by law to make any financial agreement, commitment or contribution to other interested parties under any circumstances.
In August 2018, the Kakamega County Assembly debated and passed the Kakamega County Lake Region Economic Bill, 2018 which was assented to law by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya on August 29, 2018.
The petitioners argue that the county assembly violated the constitutional provisions to conduct public participation before enacting the relevant bill into law.
The petitioners want the Kakamega County Government blocked from taking part in the activities of the LREB until it involves its citizens in the decision making process.
The decision by the 14 member counties of the LREB to contribute Sh200 million to the bloc to buy controlling stakes from one of the local banks is spearheaded by Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya who is the bloc’s chairperson.
The petitioners argue the Sh200 million should be spent on other pressing needs that will directly benefit locals especially sugarcane farming where farmers are disenfranchised and continue to suffer for lack of adequate service delivery by the county government.