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Retired teachers hope new CJ David Maraga will end Sh42bn 18-year pension row

Wednesday September 28 2016

Retired teachers follow proceedings at the Nakuru High Court on September 16, 2016 during the hearing of a case in which they are demanding Sh42.3 billion in pension dues from the government. Kenya National Union of Teachers has asked the Teachers Service Commission to speed up the processing of pension for tutors who retired in 1997. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Retired teachers follow proceedings at the Nakuru High Court on September 16, 2016 during the hearing of a case in which they are demanding Sh42.3 billion in pension dues from the government. Kenya National Union of Teachers has asked the Teachers Service Commission to speed up the processing of pension for tutors who retired in 1997. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC MATARA
By ERIC MATARA
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For 18 years, 52,000 retired teachers have been pursuing the release of Sh42.3 billion in salaries and pension arrears from the government.

The retired teachers have expressed optimism that their court battle will come to an end if High Court Judge Justice David Maraga is appointed Kenya’s next Chief Justice.

Nine years ago, sitting at the Nakuru High Court then as the presiding judge, Justice Maraga awarded the retired teachers Sh40 billion following a nine-year battle.

The ruling became the foundation of a vicious court battle after the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) appealed against it.

The retired teachers sued the TSC for a lump sum payment from the 1997 increment.

This was one of the landmark judgements that Justice Maraga is celebrated for, even though the government is yet to pay the teachers.

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SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court issued a judgement in December 2015 upholding the ruling.

If appointed, Justice Maraga will be coming into office as the Judiciary boss when the matter is still pending in the corridors of justice.

The aggrieved teachers have expressed hope that their long wait might now come to an end following the judge’s nomination to the helm of the Judiciary.

The initial amount awarded has been accruing interest at the rate of 14 per cent per annum since the initial judgement made by Mr Maraga in 2008 against TSC and the Pensions Department.

Many of the retirees interviewed by the Nation expressed optimism that having issued the earlier directive, Justice Maraga will take up the matter and ensure they are paid.

“We hope he will take up the matter and help us get justice. Some of my colleagues have since died without getting the dues,” said Mr John Kamau, one of the retirees.

HOPES ON MARAGA

Their lawyer, Mr Dominic Kimatta, could not hide his joy when he learnt that the Judicial Service Commission had picked Justice Maraga to be the country’s next Chief Justice.

Mr Kimatta, who has represented the retired teachers for 18 years, said Justice Maraga will perhaps be in a position to ensure the retirees get justice.

It is Mr Kimatta who filed and won the case before Justice Maraga in 2008 before the TSC moved to the Court of Appeal and later Supreme Court to challenge the matter.

Although the Supreme Court upheld Mr Maraga and the Court of Appeal’s judgements, the retirees are yet to receive their payment.

The last one year has seen the former teachers engage in vicious court battles with the TSC and the Pensions Department.

The retired teachers have already extended a plea that the judge, if appointed to the position of CJ, helps end the stalemate.

CONTEMPT OF COURT CASE

Early 2016, the retirees filed a contempt of court application before a Nakuru court against TSC boss Nancy Macharia.

Ms Macharia faces a six-month jail term for contempt of the orders by the Supreme Court directing the TSC to liaise with relevant government offices to pay the retirees.

On Friday last week, the Nakuru High Court issued summons against the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet for failure to arrest the Director of Pensions in relation to the pension arrears stand-off.

Justice Janet Mulwa directed Mr Boinnet to appear in court on October 6 to explain why he has failed to arrest Shem Nyakutu as directed by the court on September 16.

Mr Nyakutu is required in court to explain why the 52,000 retired teachers have not been paid Sh .5 billion part of the Sh42.3 billion pension arrears as directed by the court early in August.

SUMMONED IN COURT

He is also required to explain the steps the Pensions Department is taking to clear the remaining balance of the dues.

Previously, the court had summoned the TSC CEO and Mr Nyakutu over the payment impasse.

Mr Nyakutu appeared once before the court on August 15 after a warrant of arrest was issued against him on July 26 and confirmed his office received the Sh1.5 billion on June 25 and promised to release the amount to the retired teachers’ accounts in three weeks.

He said the pensions staff were working hard and were ready to receive the retired teachers’ claim forms.

Mr Nyakutu further indicated that his office was working with other stakeholders, including the Controller of Budget, the TSC, and the Attorney-General, as well as the retired teachers to ensure the cash is efficiently released.

However, the retirees are yet to receive the Sh1.5 billion up to date.