Sh1 billion legal fees is up for grabs by top lawyers who will take part in the presidential election petition lodged at the Supreme Court on Friday night.
Multiple sources within and outside the close-knit legal circles told Sunday Standard that already, the daggers are drawn as lawyers pitch their bids to take a slice of the bonanza which comes only once in five years.
At the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the chief respondent in the petition, a retinue of pre-qualified lawyers in their stable was yesterday making their final pitches to represent the commission before the court.
“We haven’t appointed our lawyers as so far we haven’t received the petition. We are however receiving petitions from the various lawyers in our stable, some saying they can do it at half the cost others are offering, and that sort of a thing,” IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba said.
In the 2013 presidential election petition in which IEBC commission was the chief respondent, the commission ended up paying a whopping Sh568 million to a retinue of lawyers.
A total of 10 lawyers represented the commission in various capacities and in the cases which were consolidated into one by the court.
Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi and Kamau Karori represented the ex-chairman of the commission Ahmed Issack while lawyers Aurelio Rebello, Lucy Kambuni, Mohammed Nyaoga, Paul Nyamodi, Eric Gumbo, Nani Mungai, Hillary Sigeu, Mahat Somane and Kimani Muhoro held brief for the commission.
According to the reports, the team of the lead lawyers and their researchers were being paid Sh26 million daily for the two weeks they represented the commission at the court. The lead lawyers took the bulk of the payment with the rest scaled down to their colleagues in order of rank and role.
The huge amounts would later become subject of Auditor General Inquiry.
Early this year, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati agreed the amounts were quite exorbitant and promised to scale them down. He promised that the commission would sign a binding agreement with its external lawyers sealing the amounts payable to them.
Saturday, Mr Chebukati referred our inquiries on his promise to Mr Chiloba saying he was the accounting officer.
Quality of representation
When we spoke to Chiloba, he revealed that the ceilings were never set: “That was not done. However, and this is a guarantee I can give, we are going to protect public interests in light of the concerns arising from the 2013 payments. Having said that, we are not going to overlook quality of representation taking in stock the complexity of the matter at hand and impact of the process on our operations.”
He said the payments will be guided first and foremost by the Advocates Remuneration Order and secondly by the general principles which inform a lawyer-client agreement and which include among others, market forces, caliber of lawyers and enormity of the task at hand.
“Trust me, in our list we have quality and capable lawyers who are up to the task. It is just a matter of picking those who will enable us achieve the sort of balance we are seeking,” Chiloba said.
Senior Counsels often charge the most, followed by the senior lawyers of repute.
In 2013, some of the senior counsels like the late Mutula Kilonzo and his children — Kethi Kilonzo and Mutula Kilonzo Junior — were charging as much as 1,000 dollars (about Sh100,000) an hour for ordinary litigations.
Kethi turned out for African Centre for Governance (AfriCOG) in the petition and it is not clear how much she received.
Kilonzo Jnr represented a number of petitioners in the 2013 election among them former Naivasha MP John Mututho and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua.
Civil society organisations have since pulled out of the current petition. None had filed the petition by the lapse of the deadline on Friday midnight with sources saying they made a deliberate decision to keep off. Besides IEBC, the other respondent in the 2013 general election was the Jubilee leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
Their team had lawyer Fred Ngatia, Katwa Kigen, Mohamed Nyaoga, Waweru Gatonye, Stephen Njiru, Kindiki Kithure and Kipchumba Murkomen.
The team is said to have walked home with slightly over Sh300 million for delivering the victory to the Jubilee duo.
The details of the amounts for the individual lawyers have always remained sketchy although it is known that Mr Ngatia got the lion’s share.
“We will pay as much as it takes to restore our victory,” a source at Jubilee headquarters told the Sunday Standard on the 2017 payments.
On the petitioners’ side was lead counsel George Oraro, an old stager in the game. He was accompanied by Ochieng Oduor, Paul Mwangi and Senator James Orengo in the background.
NASA duo line up witnesses in petition
It is said for this particular petition, Oraro’s team was acting pro bono with slight tokens in millions paid out.
In this current petition, lawyers Chacha Odera, Otiende Amolo, Jackson Awele, Paul Mwangi, Senator James Orengo, Prof Ben Sihanya, Peter Kaluma and Anthony Aluoch are turning out for Raila.