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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Ngatia fights off Uhuru’s tag

By The Frontier Post Reporter

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Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia has shrugged off claims to the effect that he enjoys good relations with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ngatia told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) panel that his relationship with President Kenyatta was a client-service relationship and it will not compromise his independence should be appointed the next Chief Justice.

Ngatia maintained that his links and association with the head of state will not affect his performance and service delivery.

The renowned lawyer insists that he shouldn’t be judged based on services he has offered in the past.

“Do not discriminate me because of any client I have acted for. I have acted for the high, for the poor and those in terminal condition, judge me across board. The President like any other Kenyan was in need of legal representation, I am not ashamed of working for him,” he said.

Ngatia sought to clear the air in light of questions raised over his past engagements including representing President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 Presidential Elections petitions.

He reiterates that as a leader and a lawyer of many years, he is qualified for judiciary’s top job.

He said that after the elections petitions, he retreated to private practice and that his relationship with the President did not continue.

Ngatia told the panel that President Kenyatta has not in any way intervened on his behalf in any work he has done be it for the government or private or against the government.

“If honoured to serve I will be clear that the Judiciary will be independent to a point that we shall not be directed by anyone,” he added.

Seen as one the of top contenders for the CJ post, Ngatia has an aggregate of 41 years’ experience in the legal profession.

On the issue of appointment of the 41 judges who await the nod of the President, Mr Ngatia promised to prioritize their swearing-in disclosing that he would make matter a subject of priority.

“It’s not possible to have a condition spelt out to the appointing authority, it would be disrespectful but I will make it as important as my swearing in,” said Ngatia.

The JSC Act stipulates that the process of recruiting a Chief Justice should be conducted transparently while factoring in the issues of gender, age, experience and regional balance, key elements that will determine who will form the next bench.

The Chief Justice is formally appointed by the President but is selected by the Judicial Service Commission in a competitive process and interviews.

The CJ must have at least 15 years as a legal practitioner.

Maraga, exited office on attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 and handed over the instruments of power to Mwilu who is holding the position on an acting capacity until a substantive Chief Justice is appointed.

The Commission will interview the shortlisted persons before recommending a candidate for appointment by the President subject to approval by the National Assembly as provided for under Article 166 (1) of the Constitution.

Article 167 (2) caps the tenure of Chief Justice at ten years but the holder of the office is required to exit office regardless of attaining the mandatory retirement age outlined in Article 167 (1).

The new Chief Justice will be Kenya’s 15 and third under the 2010 Constitution.

Current President of the Court of Appeal Justice William Ouko will have his chance to defend his suitability for the position of Chief Justice on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

Thursday, April 22, 2021, will see Professor Wekesa Moni an associate Professor at Daystar University appearing before the Prof Olive Mugenda led commission to defend his suitability.

The last to appear before the JSC panel on Friday, April 23, 2021, is lawyer Alice Yano who was born in 1968 in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

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