The arrest of Prof Tom Ojienda marked an escalation of his long-running battles with a number of State agencies over tax issues, a motor vehicle assigned to him and his professional work.
Prof Ojienda was arrested on Friday afternoon as he was about to enter his home in Muthaiga, Nairobi. He spent the night at the Muthaiga Police Station.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK), which he once headed, condemned his arrest and called on the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to release him on police bond.
“The frequent and rampant arrests of citizens on Friday evenings without due recourse to the constitutional rights guaranteed under Article 49(1)(f), which requires an arrested person to be brought before court as soon as possible and not later than 24 hours after arrest … is objectionable, in bad faith and contrary to Article 157 (11), which requires the DPP to prevent and avoid abuse of the legal process,” LSK President Allen Gichuhi said.
“Advocates are officers of the court and should be granted police bond, unless there are serious factors mitigating this. We do not consider the current matter as one that requires denial of police bond,” Mr Gichuhi added.
Before his arrest on Friday over “allegations of use of fake court proceedings, number and parties spread across the country … to obtain monies, as legal fees, from Mumias Sugar Company,” Prof Ojienda had had several run-ins with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
Several court orders have been obtained barring KRA, EACC and DCI from investigating or arresting him. KRA was also ordered to issue him with a tax compliance certificate, a directive that has not been honoured to date. KRA has announced that it will appeal the order.
The Mumias case, which is the reason for his arrest, according to DPP Noordin Haji’s statement, also came up in 2015, when EACC wanted to scrutinise his bank accounts.
EACC was investigating an alleged irregular transfer to his firm of Sh280 million by former Mumias Sugar Company CEO Evans Kidero.
In the last two months or so, KRA, EACC and DCI have intensified their efforts to nail him. Just days before Christmas, the renowned lawyer and member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) obtained a court order barring EACC from arresting him over allegations of misusing a government vehicle assigned to him as a member of JSC.
Also, in November, KRA and DCI were barred from arresting Prof Ojienda over alleged unpaid taxes for 2009-2016.
Prof Ojienda has claimed that KRA is being used to fight political battles to stop him from defending his JSC seat in an election tentatively set for February 2019.
“It is apparent the respondents are out on a malicious excursion to ‘get me’ and to ensure that I am subjected to a flawed criminal process smeared with illegalities, bad faith and witch-hunt, with the sole intention of irredeemably tainting my reputation in the eyes of the public and lawyers,” Prof Ojienda said in court papers.
KRA had, in September 2016, served him with a notice demanding payment of Sh378 million in taxes.
As the nominations deadline for the forthcoming LSK election was approaching, Prof Ojienda obtained a court order directing KRA to issue him with a tax compliance certificate, failing which the court directed LSK to accept his nomination papers without the KRA clearance.
The male representative to JSC position attracted five applicants, namely Prof Ojienda, former chairman of Independent Police Oversight Authority board Mr Macharia Njeru, Mr Charles Ongoto, Mr Alex Gatundu and former Speaker of Kiambu County Assembly Gathii Irungu.
Amid claims of malice and dirty tricks, the race for the slot has become hotly contested, with powerful people in the executive interested in determining who gets the seat.
In his response to DPP Noordin Haji’s public statement regarding his arrest, Prof Ojienda again said the charges “sound like a big joke and reek of malice, bad faith and fly in the face of the fundamental duty of an advocate to receive instructions and charge fees from a client”.
“In terms of the intrigues that informed this process, the interest is on the recruitment of the next Chief Justice. There has been a deliberate process to ensure that commissioners perceived to be independent are replaced. In my view, the desperation becomes clear when you see the concerted efforts to lock me out of the race. It is so deliberate and blatant,” Prof Ojienda had told the Sunday Nation shortly before his arrest.
A number of lawyers have also accused the DPP and DCI of being used as pawns in a grandmaster’s chess game to stop Prof Ojienda from contesting the seat.
By Saturday afternoon, the DCI had not taken a statement from Prof Ojienda, according to his lawyer, Mr Nelson Havi: “It is, therefore, surprising how the DPP has arrived at a decision to charge him without hearing his side of the story. The whole of Friday afternoon when he was arrested they were just chatting with him.”
With Chief Justice David Maraga and Supreme Court colleague Jackton Ojwang’ set to retire in 2021 and 2020 respectively, the JSC is attracting people who want to play a role in determining who the next Chief Justice will be.
Besides recruiting successors to CJ Maraga and Justice Ojwang’, the JSC is also expected to start recruiting 11 Court of Appeal judges and 15 judges each for the High Court, the Environment Court and Employment and Labour Court.
Prof Ojienda is a darling of young lawyers, who are the majority in LSK.
With most of the young lawyers behind him and the benefit of incumbency, the election set for February is largely seen as his to lose.
He has been sponsoring activities for them, and a number of whom were also his students when he was a lecturer at Moi University’s School of Law.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.