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Egerton VC jailed for contempt

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Egerton University Vice-Chancellor Prof Isaac Ongubo Kibwage. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

Egerton university's top administrators will have to pay Sh 100,000 fine or spend a month in jail for disobeying court orders to pay lecturers their full salaries.

Vice Chancellor Prof Isaac Kibwage and eight university council members were ordered to pay the fine or serve the sentence as punishment after they were found guilty of contempt of court on Wednesday.

Justice Njoroge further issued warrants of arrest against two council members namely Dr John Ondari and Paul K’Angira for failing to appear in court for the sentencing.

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Only four members namely Esther Wabuge, Dr Wilson Ronno, Julius Mutua and Dr Huka Wario were present for the sentencing.

Prof Kibwage and two council members Charity Nyaga and Joshua Otieno were also not present but their lawyers informed the court that they were unwell.

In his ruling Justice Nderitu said the punishment should serve as an example to all senior public servants who take court orders for granted.

“the respondents have not demonstrated any good efforts in honouring the orders. In fact, the conduct of some is contemptuous and it is time for the court to stamp its authority in such matters,” said Justice Nderitu.

The university bosses who appeared in court on Wednesday following a court summon were held in contempt of court orders issued on May 30.

The orders required them to reinstate the lecturers' pay to 100 per cent. This was in line with the return to work formula they had signed on March 4 to end the lecturers' strike.

However, the lecturers returned to court accusing the university management of not complying with the orders.

The court in its ruling said the university had deliberately refused to honour the court order and never gave the order the seriousness it deserves.

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In their mitigation, however, Prof Kibwage through his lawyer Wilfried Konosi sought lenient punishment arguing that he inherited the problems at the university.

According to Mr Konosi, the problems at the university are historical and Prof Kibwage inherited an institution that was financially crippled.

The court heard that Mr Kibwage and the council have been working tirelessly to save the university from the financial hole that it was in previously which affected the workers’ salaries.

The lecturers however through lawyer Lawrence Karanja objected noting that the institution has been receiving equal capitation from the government but chose to ignore payment of their salaries.

According to Mr Karanja, the conduct of the administrators does not reflect any remorse over the challenges that their actions had on the lecturer’s life.

Justice Nderitu regretted that the university council was putting much effort into defending their suit instead of channelling the efforts towards finding ways of paying the dons.

The four council members who were present in court were detained for hours inside the court as they worked on paying the fines.

Justice Nderitu ordered that the two members who never gave reasons for their absence be arrested and brought to court to explain their absence.

“The court finds that the respondents have taken the matter casually in total disregard of the claimants’ welfare who are unable to meet their obligations. This court is not interested in punishing the respondent just for the sake of it but needs to send a lesson to senior public officers who have no respect for the court,” said Justice Ngugi.

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