The Nairobi County Government workers called off their work boycott on Tuesday after the union secretary was arrested on alleged bribery claims.
In a letter dated October 10, 2017, the Kenya County Government Workers Union (KCGWU) had called for all workers to assemble for a parade outside City Hall in demand for their delayed September pay.
But anti-corruption detectives arrested two union officials after they were allegedly caught soliciting a bribe from Governor Mike Sonko’s aide.
Benson Olianga, the Nairobi City branch secretary, and John Muriuki, assistant treasurer, were arrested in Hamsa House along Tom Mboya Street where the union office is located.
Mr Olianga has denied the claims, accusing the governor of a set-up that is meant to intimidate the union not to proceed with the planned strike.
“Let Sonko not play cheap politics with employees. He wouldn’t succeed in silencing the union. It was a set-up but now we know who we are dealing with,” said Mr Olianga.
Trouble started on October 10, 2017 when two county workers unions decided to strike over salary delay.
Mr Olianga accused his counterpart Boniface Waweru, the KCGWU Union Secretary Nairobi County Staff branch, of chickening out and not signing the letter.
Mr Olianga said that even after the agreement to have a joint letter to call for the strike, Mr Waweru refused to sign the letter, citing that he had not consulted his members.
However, later in the day, he received a call from the county secretary to get him the copy of the letter that the union had written and since it was unsigned he drafted a new one excluding Mr Waweru.
“I took the letter to the County Secretary and since I thought he would help I did not copy anyone else. That was on Thursday last week. Immediately, I received a call from a person who identified himself as Mr Ogola and working for Mr Sonko,” said Mr Olianga.
He said that Mr Ogola told him to meet at a hotel and he should come alone.
The union secretary said that he suspected that it was a trap hence decided to call three other members, a move that angered Mr Ogola when he found the whole team.
Mr Ogola, Sonko’s aide, told the members that he had come from a meeting in Kilifi County with the governor and will consult and get back to them. He then left.
“Mr Ogola on the phone told me he was dispatched from Kilifi by the governor to talk to me since he was a Luo and that the governor wanted to start “dealing” with me directly,” said Mr Olianga.
On Friday, Mr Ogola called Mr Olianga again and asked him if he was alone and if not they could meet on Monday.
Mr Olianga had travelled to his village that weekend.
He said he received another call on Monday from the aide telling him to meet again and this time alone.
Since he arrived late in the evening following the demonstrations, the meeting was moved to Tuesday when he was then arrested.
He said that Mr Ogola called to acquire where they would meet when he decided they do it at their offices.
Mr Olianga said that when the aide arrived and found the other union members, he asked for privacy to see him alone.
He started to explain to him that the problem with the delay on salary was because the controller of budget had not reimbursed the money to the counties.
“I asked him to give me the phone to speak with the controller of budget myself. While I was on phone he got into his right pocket got out some cash … said it was some lunch,” said Mr Olianga.
He said that he moved to a corner to continue with the conversation on the phone when Mr Ogola gave the cash to Mr Muriuki and seconds later the door was opened by people from the EACC.
He said that they roughed him up asking for the cash he had received.
After threats and harassment he was found without the money as the aide pointed to the treasurer, indicating he had received it.
They were arrested and taken to the EACC offices at Integrity Centre and later released on a cash bail of Sh50,000.
Mr Waweru told the Nation that they did not call for the workers’ parade but the Nairobi City branch did.
He said they could not call for a demonstration as it would have been risky for their workers, following the ongoing anti-IEBC demos.
“It is not us who called for the parade but Mr Olianga, but no member showed up. I do not know why,” said Mr Waweru.
But he has raised concern over the county’s continuous delay of salaries.
He said last month they were paid on the 20th date.
Speaking to nation, acting County Secretary Simon Morintat urged workers to be patient as the county is facing a major cash crunch, following the delay by the national government to remit disbursements in the last two months.
Mr Morintat said that this has led to disruption of essential services as well as non-payment of salaries.
Local authorities workers have vowed to disrupt devolution plans if they are not assured of their jobs after the next elections.