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Legal hitches delay swearing-in of Wamathai as Nyeri governor

County Assembly Speaker Mwangi Mugo told the Nation that Attorney-General Githu Muigai is yet to respond to his letter, which he wrote seeking guidance on devolved government transition.

Mr Mugo said that although the deputy governor automatically becomes the governor in the event of the death of the incumbent, he cannot execute duties without taking the oath of office.

Legal hitches have delayed the swearing-in of Nyeri Deputy Governor Samuel Wamathai as the new governor following the death of Mr Nderitu Gachagua on Friday morning.

However, he said Mr Wamathai will be sworn in tomorrow since the Constitution has not set a deadline. “We are still waiting for confirmation of date and time from the Attorney-General. The ceremony needs a Judge and I had asked the AG to co-ordinate with the Chief Justice to avail a judge. I’m aware the letter was received on Friday by Mr Githu Muigai,” he said.

On enquiring about the delayed response, the Speaker said he was told the government’s chief legal adviser was consulting with the Chief Justice in making available a judge.

The county government’s communication officer, Jack Kabiru, said a funeral committee has been set up chaired by Mr Wamathai and comprising the County Executive Committee members and government officials.

He said deliberations were under way on transportation of the governor’s body from London to Kenya for burial and on whether the matter will be handled by the State or by the devolved government. “There are discussions on whether the State protocol will take over or otherwise. The family will keep on updating the media,” said Mr Kabiru.

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The governor’s brother Mr Rigathi Gachagua, who is the family’s spokesperson, was not available for comment while Mr Kabiru said he was on his way to Kenya from London.

Investigations by the Nation established that the executives are still in office despite a directive from the Council of Governor’s legal officer Mr Peter Wanyama that they should cease to hold their respective positions.

Governor Gachagua, 64, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, with close family members at his bedside.

He is the first governor to die in office.

Lawyer Patrick Ngunjiri explained that there is no vacuum in the county top office and residents should not be tense.

“The Deputy Governor will assume office for the remainder of the term but, due to the proximity of the General Election, a by-election will not be held,” said Mr Ngunjiri.

He advised that Mr Wamathai is supposed to be sworn into the new office as soon as possible to avoid a legal and political crisis.

“The Constitution is silent on the timeline,” he said. Another constitutional lawyer, Mr Wanyiri Kihoro, said that there is no vacuum in transition time and that the acting governor does not have powers to appoint a new deputy. “The acting governor will apparently hold two offices,” he said.

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