Law Society of Kenya (LSK) elected nominee to the Judicial Service Commission Ahmednasir Abdullahi when he appeared before the parliamentary committee on justice and legal affairs at continental house October 26 2010.
Parliament’s quest to vet lawyers’ nominees to the Judicial Service Commission almost hit a snag after one of the nominees questioned the competence of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee. Mr Ahmednassir Abdullahi and Ms Florence Mwangangi’s date with the committee turned stormy when Mr Abdullahi questioned where Parliament got the powers to interview elected representatives of lawyers. Though Ms Mwangangi had gone through the interview with no hitches, Mr Abdullahi stunned the committee members when he told them that they had no role whatsoever in purporting to interview him.
“My reading of the Constitution, both contextually and specifically makes me have my misgivings about whether this process has constitutional validity,” said Mr Abdullahi. Mr Abdullahi clashed with the committee members saying the process they were taking him through had no basis in law. He told the MPs, to their faces, that they were setting a “dangerous precedence” by subjecting him to unnecessary questions.
“I am not seeking the legitimacy of Parliament. Once I was elected, that’s the end of the story. When the Constitution is so young, I think, an interpretation that gives a contrary meaning is dangerous,” “I don’t think you can really expand your powers to act beyond what is provided for here. I have not been identified or appointed. I am elected. If you insist that we go on with this kind of vetting, I don’t think you have the competence. Jurisdiction in law is conferred; it’s never assumed.” said Mr Abdullahi, a former LSK boss.
However, committee chairman Ababu Namwamba and members Olago Aluoch, George Nyamweya and Njoroge Baiya, persuaded the lawyer that the vetting was in order. “What you’re seeking now is the stamp of authority from members of Kenya’s Parliament. Nobody is challenging your election here, but Parliament has to satisfy itself that the names before it are adequate,” said Mr Nyamweya.
Mr Ababu too added: “I want to assure you that this is perfectly legal, perfectly constitutional and perfectly within the procedures of the National Assembly. The National Assembly has its rules on how Parliament approves the nominees.” The MPs added that what Mr Abdullahi was asking the committee to do, amounted to seeking an interpretation of the Constitution, something which only the yet-to-be-formed Supreme Court will handle.
“If you have any issues as to interpretation, this committee does not have jurisdictional competence to do interpretation. If you feel strongly that you don’t want to submit yourself to this process, you are at liberty to leave,” ruled Mr Namwamba. But even so, Mr Abdullahi remained adamant as to his views, but still, subjected himself to the process.
“Notwithstanding the rulings and orders that you’ve made, I absolutely believe that Parliament has no competence in handling this matter,” said the ex-LSK boss. The committee got angry with the sentiment and questioned specifically why the Mr Abdullahi was not excluding himself from the process. “In this committee, there’s hostility to views. Can’t you allow people to express their views freely,” Mr Abdullahi said. “People are giving my views a nihilistic tag, but these views have constitutional validity.”
When the interview finally commenced, Mr Abdullahi said he was for an overhaul of the Judiciary, to bring competence to the body. He said he’ll push for higher perks for all judicial officers and better terms of service. He insisted that integrity is important. “People will give you an output that is commensurate with what you pay them. If you pay magistrates Sh30,000, they’ll give you service worth that much,” Mr Abdullahi said. “If people are elected to Parliament and they get free cars, why not give judicial officers new cars every five years.”
He said the quiet push against his election by judges was because he was against the status quo.
“The Law Society is supremely dissatisfied with the status quo and they voted for me because they want change,” said the lawyer. He said that unlike the time when he resigned as the chair of the Kenya Anti Corruption Advisory Board when President Kibaki rejected the board’s pick to the Kacc.
“I don’t foresee myself resigning. I am in it for the long-haul,” he said.
These names –Ms Mwangangi’s and Mr Abdullahi’s –together with that of a Court of Appeal nominee are expected in Parliament Wednesday, which is the last constitutional deadline. They’ll join High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola and Principal Magistrate Emily Ominde whose names have already been approved by Parliament.