Shipping & Logistics

Legal battles stall logistics lobby group operations

Wrangling Kenya International Freight and Warehouse Association officials Auni Bhaiji. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Wrangling Kenya International Freight and Warehouse Association officials Auni Bhaiji. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Leadership wrangles involving officials of the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) may not end soon following endless court battles that have seen two factions obtain counter orders.

Kifwa national chairman Auni Bhaiji, managing director of logistics firm Bolore Africa, is engaged in litigations with Keynote Logistics managing director William Ojonyo, who leads a splinter group and claims to be the industry lobby chairman.

Following an order obtained by Mr Ojonyo from Milimani Magistrate Court on December 8, 2016, freezing the accounts of the organisation and restraining Mr Bhaiji and his group from running the affairs of Kifwa, Mr Bhaiji filed a suit at the High Court in Nairobi seeking to quash the orders of the lower court.

The magistrate court had also issued four orders between October 2016 and March 2017. One of them directed the officials to hold a special general meeting within seven days, during which Mr Ojonyo was elected chairman.

In his suit, Mr Bhaiji claimed that the orders by the lower court were granted without his submissions thus violating the rights of his group to be heard. He further submitted that the lower court abused its processes by issuing the account freeze orders, which he said had not been sought by the plaintiff.

“There was no prayer for freezing accounts or for conducting special general meeting hence the court had no power to grant temporary reliefs on those issues,” he said in papers filed in court. On October 9, Nairobi High Court judge R.E. Aburili quashed the orders of the lower court and stopped the magistrate who issued them from hearing further cases resulting from the dispute.

“The orders made on October 14, 2016, December 8, 2016, December 20, 2016 and March 10, 2017 and all consequential orders and actions thereof and proceedings in Nairobi Chief Magistrate’s court, Milimani Law Courts civil case No7107 of 2016: Keynote Logistics Limited & 41 Others vs Auni Bhaiji & Others are hereby quashed and the file thereof marked as closed,” the judge ruled.

Justice Aburili also faulted the magistrate for ordering a special general meeting and noted that it had violated the organisation’s constitution. “In my humble view, the mandatory order for special general meeting usurped the role of the constructive organs of Kifwa. Accordingly, I find that the honourable magistrate acted ultra vires and arbitrary,” he ruled.

“Any pending dispute between the same parties hereto may be initiated by fresh proceedings in the same court to be heard and determined on its merits by any other magistrate other than D.O Ombeja, senior resident magistrate.”

While Mr Ojonyo says he is still the chairman, Mr Bhaiji’s faction sees a win after Justice Aburuli’s ruling, with the view that the election that elevated Mr Ojonyo to the post of chairman was null and void.

The court cases have stalled operations of the logistics lobby group, which vets its members who are issued with customs licences to collect tax on behalf of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

Although the taxman has moved to instill discipline by striking out some rogue clearing and forwarding agents from its register, the KRA has, however, distanced itself from the wrangles.

There have been reports that at least 300 out of 1,300 customs agents have been delisted but the KRA has not yet come out publicly on the exact number.