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Handshake wars erupt at Nairobi County Assembly

Jubilee and ODM MCAs in Nairobi could be headed for a nasty fallout following a row over leadership of the assembly’s public accounts committee.

The battle, which threatens to put to test the Handshake spirit at the city assembly, follows a move by the Jubilee side to instigate the removal of the watchdog committee’s chairperson Wilfred Odalo, an ODM MCA with 15 MCAs, three from ODM and 12 from Jubilee appending their signatures.

But in a quick retaliation, the Raila Odinga-led party withdrew its membership at the committee in a move to paralyze the committee’s operations.

In a letter by Minority Whip Peter Imwatok, dated May 4, 2021; the minority party withdrew 12 of its members from the watchdog committee citing intimidation and coercion of members of the committee into signing for the removal of Odalo as the committee’s chairperson.

But there is more. Trouble began when the assembly split in the middle early last month over payments to lawyers, AAR Insurance Kenya-City Hall staff medical scheme, and Covid-19 relief food program.

What followed was the collection of signatures to remove Imwatok from his minority whip position with the exercise led by Highrise MCA Kennedy Oyugi, ODM MCA.

The primary mandate of the committee is to oversight expenditure by the county government and its entities and thus is chaired by an MCA from the opposition side.

Imwatok said that the position is the preserve of the minority side at the assembly which nominates the member(s) who is qualified to be a chairperson of any select committee.

“It has come to my attention and that of the minority House leadership, that yourself and other members of the public accounts committee have been intimidating and coercing other members into signing for the purported removal of the current chairperson Hon Wilfred Oluoch Odalo…,” read in part the letter addressed to the Assembly Speaker Benson Mutura.

“In line with this, I regrettably invoke the standing order 168(1) and discharge the following members from serving as members of the public accounts committee,” added the letter.

Standing Order 168(1) of the Nairobi County Assembly states that the county assembly party that nominated a member to a select committee, may give notice, in writing, to the speaker that the member is to be discharged from a select committee.

The standing order adds that the discharge of a member shall take effect upon receipt by the speaker of the notice above.

The discharged members include Odalo, Moses Ogeto, Clarence Munga, Maurice Ochieng, Anne Catherine, Rose Ogonda, Lawrence Otieno, Imwatok, Jared Okode, Jane Muasya, Osman Khalif, and Rosemary Masitsa.

However, Majority Leader Abdi Guyo hit back saying the committee will continue operating so long as they have a quorum.

He added that a chairperson of any committee serves at the pleasure of his or her members and once that confidence is lost, the chair cannot force him or herself on the members.

“It is not Jubilee’s business if they (ODM) decided to pull out. The chair has been accused of gross misconduct which will taint the image of the assembly. The members have the right to choose their chair who will still be from opposition,” said the Matopeni MCA.