Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja has appointed lawyer Christine Ireri as the new acting County Attorney, replacing the controversial long-serving Lydia Kwamboka. Ireri, who previously worked in the County’s legal department, will now oversee county legal affairs and take on various responsibilities, including drafting legislation originating from the Nairobi County Executive Committee. Additionally, she will perform prosecutorial functions in cases involving violations of Acts of the County Assembly of Nairobi City and will ensure the publication of all legislation passed by the Nairobi City County Assembly.
Ireri’s initial appointment to the position came in an acting capacity by former Governor Mike Sonko in 2019, after Sonko suspended Lydia Kwamboka. Ireri now assumes a more permanent role, filling the vacancy left by Kwamboka’s removal.
The decision to remove Kwamboka from her position was not abrupt but rather the result of sustained efforts by various stakeholders, including the advocacy group Bunge La Mwananchi. In January of this year, Bunge La Mwananchi petitioned the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate and prosecute Kwamboka for corruption allegations at City Hall.
Edward Githaiga, President of Bunge La Mwananchi, accused Kwamboka of engaging in corrupt activities and unlawfully occupying the office of County Attorney. Githaiga submitted a letter to the EACC Chief Executive Officer, urging an investigation into Kwamboka’s continued stay in office.
Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) took action in July 2021 by resolving to terminate Kwamboka’s services. This decision was based on a report by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, which recommended the termination of Kwamboka’s contract due to abuse of office and operating without a valid advocate practicing certificate.
The decision to terminate Kwamboka’s contract was rooted in an investigation by the committee, prompted by a petition from John Mark Ojiambo. The petition called for Kwamboka’s removal “on behalf of Kenyan citizens and Nairobi taxpayers.” Githaiga further emphasized that Kwamboka’s actions did not align with constitutional provisions, rendering her unfit for office. Githaiga accused Kwamboka of making unauthorized payments and authorizations while absent from the office, a behavior he characterized as “stealing by servant.” He called for investigations and prosecution of individuals aiding Kwamboka’s unlawful tenure.
Githaiga’s concerns extended to irregular financial transactions, including payments to Kwanga Mboya Advocates. He urged the EACC to investigate these payments, including a Ksh51 million transaction allegedly executed without following legal and financial audit procedures outlined in the County Government Act. These payments were reportedly made despite orders from Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja to halt payments for pending bills.
In 2018, Kwamboka faced allegations of incompetency and irregularities, leading to a petition for a vote of no confidence from a Nairobi resident. This resident claimed that Kwamboka’s conduct contradicted Article 10 and Chapter Six of the Constitution, rendering her unfit for office. In April 2018, Mowlem MCA Benson Mwangi presented a petition to the House, revealing that Kwamboka’s appointment as County Attorney was for a one-year contract. However, the contract elapsed during her suspension, and upon her return, her contract was renewed without proper vetting.
Section Four of the Office of the County Attorney’s Act, 2020, stipulates that the county attorney must be appointed by the governor, with the approval of the county assembly. Kwamboka’s appointment was vetted and approved by the assembly in April 2018. However, on September 19, 2018, Kwamboka, along with three county officials, faced suspension by former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko due to allegations of insubordination regarding the Pumwani Maternity Hospital saga.
Despite this suspension, Kwamboka later resumed her role at City Hall. The subsequent renewal of her contract without proper vetting further underscored concerns about transparency and adherence to procedures within the County Attorney’s office.
Christine Ireri now steps into this complex and challenging role, tasked with restoring integrity and upholding the rule of law in Nairobi County’s legal affairs. Her appointment signifies a renewed effort to address the issues that have plagued the office and to ensure that the county’s legal matters are handled with the utmost professionalism and transparency.