Even before the ink dries up on a ruling denying Governor Mike Sonko permission to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a UN-Habitat conference, more details have now emerged over the failed trip.
In a document seen by the Sunday Nation, 32 Nairobi members of county assembly (MCAs) – with some members of the County Executive Committee (CEC) – were supposed to accompany the governor to the Middle East before the court’s ruling jolted the plans.
Hiding under the UAE Conference on Sustainable Urban Development and Human Settlement, the plan was to have the ward representatives outside the country for the duration of the conference, between February 7-13.
The timing of the trip raised eyebrows as it was made to coincide with the return of official sittings of Nairobi County Assembly next week after a two-month recess, putting Governor Sonko’s administration on the spotlight once again.
On the list are 10 opposition MCAs, all allied to the governor, and 12 from the Jubilee Party.
REQUEST FOR FACILITATION
In a letter seen by the Sunday Nation, the Nairobi County Secretary was requested for facilitation of living and transport expenses of the delegation, which also included acting County Assembly Clerk Monica Muthami.
The letter stated that the conference was a joint venture between the executive and assembly and would strengthen the ability of the latter to oversight the former.
“The Nairobi County Assembly would like to request the County Executive to finance the delegation to attend this important meeting. The duration of the visit will be six days. We are requesting the County Executive to cater for all the living and transport expenses during the period,” reads in part the letter signed by Ms Muthami.
“This is, therefore, to kindly request your office to facilitate the members and staff to enable them to travel to Dubai,” added the letter stamped as received by the County Secretary’s office on February 6, 2020. The conference is being held in Abu Dhabi, not Dubai.
However, an invitation letter to Nairobi County Health executive Hitan Majevdia, formerly Roads and Transport CEC, by UN-Habitat Executive-Director Maimunah Sharif does not mention any invitation to the MCAs.
Ms Sharif indicates that the focus of the conference would be relevant to the departments of finance, housing, urban development, culture, national heritage, innovation, science, information and technology.
The conference is meant to offer opportunities to showcase urban solutions and to network with other practitioners and policymakers facing similar development opportunities and challenges.
“I am pleased to invite you to the 10th session of the World Urban Forum to be held from February 8-13, 2020 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the capital city Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates,” said Ms Sharif in the February 4 letter.
The planned motion has been in the works since then, and last Thursday Minority Chief Whip Peter Imwatok reiterated his desire to bring forth an impeachment motion against Mr Sonko when the fourth session of the second assembly resumes.
IMWATOK FIGHTS ON
Addressing the media at Central Police Station while recording a statement over threats to his life, Mr Imwatok vowed to soldier on with the plan, saying that he had already collected enough signatures and is currently laying the grounds and particulars for the motion.
“We have enough numbers to put forward a notice of motion and also to send Sonko home. If that is the issue, then I am sorry for him because I have to do my job under the Constitution.
“We are determined that once the assembly resumes, the governor has to be accountable to the people of Nairobi, and especially on Chapter Six of the Constitution. We are not going to relent on this,” he added.
Interestingly, most of the MCAs on the list were part of the aborted trip to the same country last December.
At the time, 18 ward reps were scheduled to fly out to Dubai for 11 days, between December 19-29.
The tour had been planned to take place around the same time ODM party members were calling for a special sitting of the assembly, during which a motion to impeach the governor would have been tabled.
A source privy to the happenings told the Sunday Nation that each member of the delegation was due to receive Sh53,500 ($535) per night as per diem for the seven nights exclusive of the air ticket, which ranges between Sh70,000 and Sh120,000. There is also a ground transport allowance of Sh30,000 each.
Reached for comment, Ms Muthami denied knowledge of the letter, saying that someone must have forged her signature.
“Nobody was facilitated and there is no such a trip. Whoever has written that letter has forged my signature. I am aware there is a conference in Abu Dhabi but I am not aware of any member who is traveling,” she said.
Minority Leader David Mberia said the list originated from the Executive without the knowledge of both leaders of the assembly, and the MCAs were to be out of the country ahead of the reconvening of the assembly on Tuesday.
“He is trying the divide-and-rule thing. He had tried to come up with a list thinking the court would allow him to travel but the court denied him the passport. After the court denied him the passport, his plans failed. He wanted to travel with them,” said Mr Mberia.
On his part, Majority Leader Charles Thuo said he had not given out any names of MCAs to travel outside the country and the speaker had also not approved of any travel by members.
“I saw the list on social media, and when I contacted the clerk she told me the list did not come from her office. I had not given out any names. If it was real then someone was hiding it from me,” said the Dandora 3 MCA.
“Essentially, they could not even travel as the speaker was not around to approve as the authority can only come from the speaker,” he added.