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Second judge recuses himself from Sonko ouster case amid Sh7 million bribe claim

A second judge has recused himself from a case filed by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, even as he dismissed claims of an alleged Sh7 million bribe to rule in favour of the embattled governor as laughable.

The case, filed by Sonko last month to stop Nairobi Assembly’s debate of his impeachment motion, is now proving to be a hot potato for judges with Justice Nzioki Wa Makau becoming the second judge to wash his hands of the case in just under a week.

Last week, Justice James Rika recused himself from the case after tempers flared in court when Mr Harrison Kinyanjui, Sonko’s lawyer, accused the court of bias in the matter. He complained that the impeachment motion had continued despite orders stopping the same.

Mr Makau said he withdrew from the case because of an application by Nairobi County Assembly lawyer, Ndegwa Njiru, seeking to have him disqualified from hearing the petition over alleged bias.

This is after the judge issued conservatory orders barring MCAs from proceeding with the impeachment motion pending an inter partes hearing and determination on December 3, 2020 of the case filed by the governor.

However, Mr Njiru filed an application seeking disqualification of Justice Makau from handling the case, accusing him of allegedly receiving Sh7 million from the governor.

Apart from the bribery allegations, Mr Njiru had also claimed that due to Mr Makau’s “personal” relationship with the governor, it would be hard for him to not be biased or prejudiced.

“Without any written motion before me, the counsel for the third respondent, one Mr Njiru, sought my recusal. In his submissions, he made some laughable allegations that I have been given some Sh7 million by Mike Sonko Mbuvi the petitioner herein,” said Justice Makau.

The petition by Mr Sonko has listed Nairobi County Assembly Clerk as the first respondent, the Speaker as second, Nairobi Assembly as third, minority whip Peter Imwatok as fourth, the Senate as fifth and Mr Ogada as the sixth respondent.

Justice Makau initially defended himself by saying there was no basis on which he should disqualify himself from the case.

He has since changed his mind, however, by referring the file back to the Principal Judge for reassignment.

“However, despite my finding that there is no basis for my recusal and because there is no property in a suit before me, I…refer the file back to the Principal Judge to assign the file to any other judge other than myself. It is so ordered,” said Mr Makau.

Nonetheless, the judge rubbished the claims by Mr Njiru as an attempt to subvert the hearing of the notice of motion which was scheduled before him.

“For the record, I do not know him (Sonko) and neither have I met him in person as at no time have our public lives converged nor have our private lives. Like many citizens of this nation, I have only seen him on television,” he said.