The controversy surrounding a building leased out to the Judiciary seven years ago has come back to haunt Chief Justice David Maraga. The Judiciary entered into a lease agreement of the commercial building known as Elgon Place for use by Court of Appeal judges in 2013.
In a petition filed Tuesday before the Judicial Service Commission, Mr Fredrick Obilo wants the Chief Justice removed from office, saying he failed to constitute a bench to hear and determine the pending lease row.
In his suit documents, Mr Obilo claimed that a dispute has been pending in court since 2016 over the building because the Judiciary has not paid rent as well as parking fees on one part and service charge on the other for the premise despite its completion and possession of the lease.
He alleged that the Judiciary took over the premise on January 1, 2013, for use as the new Court of Appeal premises.
However, the Judiciary failed to pay rent and parking fees, which has accrued to USD 1.2 million and Sh22.4 million respectively as at March 31, 2015, which led to the dispute spilling over to the Environment and Lands Court in 2016.
Mr Obilo is now pointing an accusing finger at the CJ for having failed to empanel a bench to hear and determine the pending case.
“The failure by the CJ to act on a matter despite his knowledge is a calculated path of abdication of duty and violates the Constitution, the code of judicial conduct as well as principles of judicial independence,” said Mr Obilo.
Mr Obilo accuses the CJ of failing to put an end to wastage of public funds through the leased premise; and failing to help find a speedy resolution to the stalemate.
As a result, he argues that the failure amounts to gross misconduct, which could warrant the CJ’s removal from office.
The glass-walled building in Nairobi’s Upper Hill has remained in the public eye since 2013 after Court of Appeal judges declined to occupy it, claiming that the office block was emitting radioactive material, which could be harmful to their health. The Judiciary had partitioned the seven-storey building to house 16 judges’ chambers, offices and six court rooms.
According to the duly signed lease agreements, the Judiciary eventually leased 47,890 square feet at a monthly charge of Sh5, 845,633, translating to Sh70, 147,605 annually.