Reclusive governor in the eye of graft storm

Samburu Governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal
Samburu Governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal at the Milimani Law Courts Nairobi on Tuesday, April 02, 2019. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG 

If truly life begins at 40, as the old saying goes, then beleaguered Samburu governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal must be hoping for better tidings of sorts. At 43, he is riding through turbulent times as he battles graft charges in court.

This week has particularly been nasty for Lenokulal. He spent two nights in police cells away from the comfort of his palatial home after he failed to pay a record Sh100 million cash bail imposed on him by anti-corruption magistrate Douglas Ogoti. The magistrate court had given the governor an alternative bond of Sh150 million plus one surety.

When Lenokulal appeared in court on Monday he looked relaxed, occasionally breaking into smiles as court proceedings got underway. He at times clenched his fist — perhaps a sign of defiance against the charges preferred against him.

But when Mr Ogoti read out his bail terms, the governor reacted with a blank stare. He wasn’t prepared for it.

Besides the hefty amount of cash, the magistrate barred Mr Lenokulal from accessing the Samburu County government offices in Maralal, pending the hearing and determination of an application to be filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The court also said the director of Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS) should deny Mr Lenolkulal and 12 other county officials access to the platform. He said this would safeguard public funds.


Bail terms

The governor was whisked back to police cells pending his application for a review of bail terms. He got a reprieve on Wednesday when High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi reduced his cash bail from Sh100 million to Sh10million. The court, however, upheld the condition that Mr Lenokulal keeps off the county offices.

But even with the lower cash bail, the governor spent a second night in the police cells as he tried to raise the amount. He was released yesterday.

During his court appearance, Mr Lenokulal denied four counts including conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, abuse of office and conflict of interest and unlawful acquisition of public property.

The governor is said to have committed the offence, alongside others, between March 27, 2013 and March 25, 2019 at Maralal town. The court heard that they conspired to commit the offence of corruption, which led to unlawful payment of Sh84.69million, paid to Mr Lenolkulal through a petrol station known as Oryx Service Station.

Mr Lenolkulal and Mr Wachira face another count of unlawful acquisition of the Sh84.6 million from the county government.

The governor faced an additional charge of abuse office by allegedly conferring a benefit to himself by paying his company the said amount. He is further accused of conflict of interest where he is alleged to have knowingly acquired a direct private interest by supplying fuel to the County government through his service station.

Last month, the High Court froze four properties in Karen belonging to the Samburu governor for six months.

In an application certified as urgent by Justice John Onyiego, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) argued that they suspect that the properties were purchased using public funds.

The documents filed in court state that on July 8, 2015, Mr Lenolkulal purchased four properties in Karen. Justice Onyiego said the orders will remain in force for six months.

Away from his tribulations, little is known about Mr Lenokulal who is described by many as recluse, but active at brainstorming.

Taveta MP Naomi Shaban describes the governor as an avid negotiator despite his relatively young age.

She says she met Lenokulal in 2012 when President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto’s allies were negotiating a merger between their The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP) to contest the 2013 General Elections.

“Mr Lenokulal then was 34-year-old … Most of us from the TNA side were suspicious of his presence in those negotiations … But those from the URP side appeared to have so much faith in him. Initially we thought he was a personal assistant to a top URP leader. But we came to realise he was loved in URP for his wealth, brain and foresight,” she says.

Great patience

East African Community and Northern Corridor Development secretary Peter Munya, who served as chairman of the Council of Governors (CoG) describes Mr Lenokulal as “a man of great patience when in a negotiation, of few words but very incisive in laying bare his position.”

Former Bomet Governor, Isaac Ruto who also once headed the COG describes Lenokulal as “a young guy but with a mature brain.”

Samburu residents say the governor keeps a private life and is rarely spotted in public places.

“He is that guy who is loved and hated in equal measure. He is known to be generous to those who gain his confidence and admission into his inner circle. He is a paranoid man in social places and loves security around him. A man with a fetish appetite for good things in life,” says a journalist based in Samburu.

Born in Samburu in 1976, Mr Lenokulal has a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Economics from Egerton University, Njoro.

Mr Lenokulal was the youngest elected county boss in the 2017 General Elections. This is his second and final term.