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Court grants governors powers to pick deputies

Governors will be at liberty to pick fresh nominees within 14 days to replace Deputy Governors who resign, suffer impeachment or die in office, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The nomination of the Deputy Governors will be subject to approval by County Assemblies within 60 days after which the successful appointee will take the prescribed oath of office, the court declared.

The five-member bench said the Constitution does not prescribe the direct election of a Deputy Governor, whose assigned docket as Deputy Chief Executive and member of County Executive Committee is crucial to the operations of county government.

The ruling comes even as Senate seeks to consider amendments to the County Government Act to the process of appointing new deputy governors into law. It was unconstitutionally inconceivable to have a vacuum in the office of Deputy Governor until the next General Election is held,” Justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Jacton Ojwang, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u and Isaac Lenaola pointed out in their 23-page advisory opinion.

They observed that Article 182 (2) of the Constitution creates a pecking order whereby the Deputy Governor is the first to succeed the Governor who leaves office and the Speaker of the County Assembly takes charge in case the probable successor is unable to assume the vacancy.

The Speaker can only take office in acting capacity for 60 days before a fresh poll is conducted. “Where a vacancy occurs in both the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor at the same time, the office of Deputy Governor shall remain vacant until the election of a new Governor. The new Governor shall nominate a person to fill the vacancy within 14 days after assuming office.

The County Assembly shall vote on the nomination within 60 days after receiving it,” the highest court in the land said. However, the Supreme Court Judges conceded the Constitution was silent on how to fill the position of Deputy Governor, in the event of a vacancy occurring after the exit of the Governor.

“It is beyond dispute there exists a lacuna (vacuum) in law with regard to the filling of a vacancy in the office of Deputy Governor,” they said. The five Judges acknowledged that the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor were intimately linked since they were running-mates during elections.

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