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Are governors the new lords of impunity?



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They are flashy and exude authority. They are the powerful guys in town — the lords of the counties.

Since 2013 when the first governors were sworn into office, they have been strutting across various counties showcasing their newfound power and wealth.

However, they are now being accused of financial mismanagement, resource pilferage and poor service delivery, among other ills.

Last Friday, police officers attached to West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo were withdrawn after the county boss stormed a roadblock on Kapenguria-Lodwar road and forcibly released a boda-boda rider on Wednesday evening.

The rider had been arrested for flouting traffic rules.

A furious Mr Lonyangapuo threw away the officers’ spike strips and ordered the police to leave the place, accusing them of collecting bribes and harassing motorists.

And now the governor’s lobby has demanded the immediate reinstatement of Mr Lonyangapuo’s security detail, saying the withdrawal was an infringement on his rights as a State officer.

“This serves as an affirmation to the entire public that the respective individual has been given the responsibility to serve constituents and in the discharge of his or her duties is entitled to certain benefits. This is reiterated in Section 30 of the County Governments Act,” Council of Governors (CoG) chairman Josphat Nanok said in a statement.

“In light of the above, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, under Article 230 (4) (a) of the Constitution, set security as one of the benefits accruing to State officers serving in the county government vide the Gazette Notice No. 2888 of March 1, 2013.”

But Governor Lonyangapuo’s case is not exceptional.

In July, MPs and senators were up in arms against governors who wanted to be shielded from prosecution while in office.

The CoG had said its members deserve similar immunity to that granted to the President in civil and criminal proceedings.

Mr Nanok had charged that the national government was orchestrating arbitrary arrests against them with the aim of embarrassing them and not necessarily fighting corruption.

It is these remarks that raised fears that the county bosses tolerate impunity even as some of them have been prosecuted over graft and other forms of crime.

In July, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission embarked on reviving stalled corruption cases involving governors.

Former Nyandarua Governor Waithaka Mwangi was charged in a Nakuru anti-corruption court with “wilful failure to comply with the law relating to the procurement, contrary to Section 48 of the Economic Crimes Act, 2003”.

Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong is accused of engaging a company known as Madam R Enterprise to conduct a feasibility study on waste management, which the county had not budgeted for.

In the process, the county government lost Sh8 million. Mr Ojaamong and his co-accused allegedly committed the offences between March 15 and September 25, 2014.

Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero has denied three corruption-related charges leading to the loss of Sh213 million.

There were also raids at the homes of former governors Samuel Ragwa (Tharaka-Nithi) and Godana Doyo (Isiolo).

Mr Doyo had been charged with economic crimes and abuse of office before a Meru court.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado is accused of murdering university student Sharon Otieno and is also facing gun-related charges.