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Irony of senior State officers who defy court orders

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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This year, government officials continued to run into trouble with courts for failing to obey orders.

The Defence Principal Secretary Saitoti Torome ranks high in the list, with lawyers in two cases currently pushing for his jailing for disobeying court directives.

In one case, Mr Torome has been jailed for six months by High Court judge Joseph Sergon for failing to pay Sh17.2 million to a family that gave land to the government in 2006.

In another, lawyers of disabled former Kenya Defence Forces unit soldier Isaiah Oduor Ochanda who was awarded Sh19 million in 2011 are also pushing for Mr Torome to be held accountable.

ARREST WARRANT

In relation to Mr Ochanda’s case heard by Lady Justice Roselyne Aburili, Mr Torome is to be jailed for six months or pay a Sh500,000 fine.

The number of arrest warrants has been increasing by the day with court officials now concerned about government officials’ failure to heed to the orders.

“In these cases, I see continuous disobedience of lawful court orders by government officials without any justifiable cause or explanation,” said Justice Francis Gikonyo recently.

His colleague in the High Court George Odunga said: “In my considered view, court orders are not made in vain and are meant to be complied with. If for any reason a party has difficulty in complying with court orders, the honourable thing to do is to come back to court and explain the difficulties faced in the need to comply with the order.”

Lawyer James Mwamu said flagrant disobedience of the law undermines the rule of law and the Judiciary. He proposed that Chief Justice David Maraga holds a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta and discuss the matter with him.

COURT ORDERS

“I think this is where leadership should come in. The CJ should meet with not only the President but also the Speakers because I believe some have also ignored court orders, and agree that court directives should be obeyed. We cannot have a country where everyone is a law unto themselves,” he said.

Mr Mwamu said it had become difficult to implement court orders because the concerned public officials were protected by the police while on duty and at home.

While issuing the warrant of arrest against Mr Torome, Justice Sergon had directed Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet to ensure that the PS was brought to court without fail. Mr Boinnet said he could not arrest him because the PS had already filed an appeal, seeking to stay the order.

Justice Sergon issued the order last month directing the PS to be arrested and jailed for six months for contempt of court. This was after a family in Mombasa, Ms Eunice Makori and Ms Hellen Makone, moved to court in 2009 and successfully sued the government for failing to compensate them after they surrendered their land in Mombasa.

The two, who are administrator and personal representatives of the estate of Mr Johnson Onduko Makori, accused the government of failing to pay them Sh9.2 million plus other interests from 2006, when the land was given to the government.

A judgment to that effect was issued in June 2015, but since then, the government has not paid the amount which keeps going up as interests accrue.

In March last year, Justice Odunga issued orders for the arrest of Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho for failing to pay Mr Joshua Mutua his compensation after he was awarded Sh383,022 by the court. Mr Mutua has spent almost seven years demanding the dues.

While issuing the order, Justice Odunga said Dr Kibicho should be presented in court to explain why he should not be jailed for refusing to compensate Mr Mutua after he successfully sued the government.

But before the matter settled, Justice Odunga issued yet another warrant of arrest against Dr Kibicho, whom he wanted presented in court to explain why he should not be jailed for contempt of court, after failing to pay an accident victim, Mr Patrick Mutua Mbithi Sh223,625.

Mr Mbithi was knocked down by a Kenya Defence Forces van in 2007 and was three years later awarded Sh122,526 with interest of 12 per cent per year until payment in full.

ILLEGAL BREWS

Still in April last year, Dr Kibicho was once against in trouble after a Meru court issued a warrant of arrest against him for repeatedly disobeying court orders.

While issuing the order, Justice Gikonyo, said the State officer had a tendency of disobeying court orders and summons requesting him to appear to answer to contempt of court charges against him.

Then, Dr Kibicho was accused of disobeying a court order restraining him and his staff from the ministry from raiding a liquor manufacturing company during a crackdown on illegal brews.

Hakim Commercial Agencies filed a suit, seeking an injunction to stop the PS and his officers from harassing the petitioner.

In 2014, Dr Kibicho’s predecessor Mutea Iringo appeared in court and explained why he failed to comply with a directive ordering him to pay a Tanzanian who had been illegally detained.

CHILD NEGLECT

Mr James Alfred Koroso had complained that the government was yet to pay him Sh31.5 million, about four years after he was awarded the amount. The Tanzanian was arrested and charged with robbery with violence in Kiambu in 1993 before being acquitted. He sued for wrongful arrest.

In 2014, Dr Monica Juma, then serving as Defence PS, was in trouble after a children’s court in Mombasa accused her of failing to enforce a court order against a KDF soldier in a child upkeep row.

The Tononoka children’s court ordered Dr Juma’s arrest after she failed to attach the monthly salary of the soldier sued by a Mombasa woman.

Dr Juma failed to comply with orders requiring the Defence ministry to attach the salary of Omar Mohammed Mubea who had been sued for child neglect.

Additional reporting by Elvis Ondieki