Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja can now breathe easy after the High Court on Tuesday dismissed a case challenging the validity of his academic credentials.
Justice Anthony Mrima ruled that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) did not err by clearing Sakaja for the Nairobi gubernatorial contest.
The judge also noted that the petitioner, Dennis Wahome, failed to prove that the legislator’s certificate was fake.
The judge further asserted that the electoral agency lacks the authority or mandate to check the validity of the documents presented by applicants.
“The evidential burden shifted to the petitioner. Even by considering the evidence in the affidavit that was struck out by the tribunal, there was no evidence to support allegations leveled against Mr Sakaja. The tribunal did not err in dismissing the complaint for lack of proof,” said the judge.
He added, “There is no legal provision requiring the elections returning officer to verify authenticity of documents availed by aspirants, no law or constitution places such a duty on the IEBC and returning officers. They would act in vain by verifying the documents as IEBC has no tools. There is no reason for this court to add other duties on IEBC which are not provided for in the law.”
The petitioner had stated that the IEBC has a duty and obligation to examine the authenticity of documents supplied by political candidates.
“By taking no steps to verify the authenticity of the degree certificate purportedly issued to Mr Sakaja by Team University on October 21, 2016 the IEBC and the returning officer were complicit to a fraud perpetrated by Mr Sakaja, contrary to the IEBC’s obligations as established by Article 88(4) of the Constitution,” lawyers Paula Nyamodi and Njoki Mboce argued.
The judge added that it was not the first time a court had to deal with allegations that a candidate had false academic credentials.
Since such illegalities are criminal in nature and it is wrong for someone to profit from them, he requested that the investigating agencies and the head of public prosecutions look into them.
“The investigative agencies and the office of the DPP must take up some measures to the vice. Until and unless such deliberate efforts are taken by necessary parties, the seemingly increasing manner of persons using forged academic documents will never come to an end. It is my hope and desire that this longstanding issue will going forward receive appropriate action from the concerned parties,” said Justice Mrima.