Justice Alfred Mabeya, presiding Judge at the Milimani Commercial Court has stated that the case by five farmers challenging the leasing of Mumias Sugar Company ought to be determined expeditiously. The Judge has also fixed the case’s hearing for four consecutive days starting February 14th to 17th, 2022.
On January 14th, 2022, the 5 farmers, Lambert Lwanga Ogochi, Augustino Ochacha Saba, Prisca Okwanko Ochacha, Robert Mudinyu Magero and Wycliffe Barasa Ng’onga obtained orders stopping operations at Mumias. The defendants in the case are Ponangipali Venkata Ramana Rao, KCB Bank Kenya, the Attorney General, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Competition Authority of Kenya, Sarrai Group, Chief Land Registrar, County Government of Kakamega and the CMA.
In a previous hearing, Milimani Commercial Judge Justice Wilfrida Okwany on January 25th, 2022 extended the orders to March 14th, 2022 and enjoined West Kenya Sugar Limited in the case. West Kenya through senior counsel Paul Muite had faulted the bidding process, expressing that it was not conducted in a fair and transparent manner. This is after the tender was awarded to the Sarrai Group, the lowest bidder at Ksh. 6 billion.
While giving directions on the matter, Justice Mabeya noted that since the case by the farmers was filed in court in January 2022, several applications have been filed by not less than 5 interested parties. He further noted that other parties are seeking to set aside the order, another party is filing preliminary objection to the suit and others are seeking to be enjoined in the matter.
“The dispute should be determined expeditiously. It must be resolved at once without much delay,” said Justice Mabeya. He enjoined the parties seeking to be part of the suit and directed them to file their papers within three days and the applicants to file responses within three days. The parties were directed to file written submissions within seven days starting February 7th, 2022.
In response to this latest development, Sarrai Group has since stated that the lease for operating and taking over assets of Mumias Sugar Company was not marred with improprieties. Sarrai Group argues that assets of Mumias Sugar Company are wasting away because of the orders stopping its operations.
On its part, County Government of Kakamega raised a preliminary objection to the suit saying it is misconceived, incompetent and does not show reasonable cause of action against the county. The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) says no merger approval has been submitted to them in relation to leasing of the assets of Mumias Sugar. The Authority added that Rao’s decision to handover the assets of the company to Sarrai Group is in disregard and violation of the law and amounts to criminal conduct under the Competition Act 2010.