As Famine Looms, Kenyan Politicians are Behind the Maize Scandal

Big names in maize scam

Ababu Namwamba (MP Budalangi) – 15,000 bags – Sh36 million
David Koros (Ex-MP Eldoret East) – 8,000 bags – Sh 18 million
Joshua Kuttuny (MP Cherangany) – 5,000 bags – Sh 11.5 million
Caroli Omondi (PM chief of staff) – 3,000 bags – Sh 6.9 million

In what reminds one of the infamous coffee racket of the 1970s when unscrupulous brokers and politicians minted money from smuggling coffee to Uganda through Chepkube market, politicians are today making a kill as they ship tonneloads of the much-needed maize out of the country even as millions stare at certain starvation for lack of commodity that is the staple stuff of Kenya.

Believe it or not, Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba, one of the brains behind the still-born Grand Opposition Bill currently gathering dust in parliament is the biggest beneficiaries of maize irregularly allocated to individuals by the National Cereals and Produce Board from the National Strategic Reserve.

Investigations reveal that in a scheme to build political allies in various regions across the country, Agriculture Minister, William Ruto, capitalised on the maize crisis to reward friends by issuing instructions for them to be given allotment letters in what is being, termed in business circles the "maize wind fall".

Apart from Namwamba who was allocated a cool 15,000 bags from NCPB that is said to have fetched him a cool Sh36 million after selling to a miller through a broker, others who have benefited from the deal is Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny and former Eldoret East MP David Koross.

Koross is said to have pitched tent at Nakuru NCPB depot where he has been able to broker and sell his slot to millers based in the town. Some. of the millers claim to be able to mill tonnes of maize to help curb the crisis when in true sense they are unable to mill a few tens of kilogrammes per hour.

Koross who was defeated by Prof. Margaret Kamar on the Eldoret East Parliamentary seat is a close ally of Ruto.

Sources well versed with goings-on at NCPB where Prof. Misoi is the Managing Director reveal that Koross was allocated 8,000 bags and pocketed a cool Shl8 million in the deal.

Koros was last week seen shopping for a Range Rover Sports car at a motor sales yard at Yaya Centre.

Ruto is said not to get on well with Prof. Kamar, who was quoted in the media last week complaining that the government was importing maize at a higher price while offering farmers lower prices.

On his part, the Cherengany MP Kuttuny, was allocated 5,000 bags that saw him pocket Sh 11.5 million. He has bought a 20-acre plot at Kaplamoi in Trans Nzoia using part of the money.

Word has it, the Agriculture Minister used the maize allocation to consolidate his political power in ODM and nationally. The maize was allocated at the height of the clamour for official opposition that was seen to be fighting Raila and Ruto who was not in good terms with Raila then reportedly wanted to financially empower the Ababu and Kuttuny for the power war ahead.

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission is said to be investigating the NCPB scandal that has seen crooked men pose as millers. A source at NCPB also revealed, Caroli Omondi the chief of staff in Prime Minister Raila Odinga office was also a beneficiary. He was allocated 3,000 bags that saw him laugh all the way to the bank with Sh6.9 million.

A company associated with Raila's son, Fidel Castro, and the PM's business associate Mike Njeru trading under the banner Alpha Logistics was also allocated.

Former MPs who are said to have pushed to be allocated include Maoka Maore, Joseph Kimkung, but we could not establish if they benefited.

Businessman-cum-politician Jackson Kibor was allocated 2,000 bags.

It is also emerging, Agriculture PS also pushed for a number of those surrounding President Kibaki to get allotment notable one being KenGen Managing Director Eddy Njoroge.

Sources told us, aware of the goldmine that maize business is, those close to Kibaki pushed the President to name one of their own on the Cereals board to push for their interests.

Kibaki named Jimnah Mbaru, the retired Nairobi Stock Exchange boss as the chairman of the board. Surprisingly, Kibaki is said to have neither consulted his Prime Minister nor Agriculture Minister before naming Mbaru Board chairman.

It is imperative to note this was done moments before he launched a Sh32 billion international appeal for food aid, with observers suggesting that the placement of Mbaru in anticipation is strategic to have control over the possible windfall that should be channeled through the NCPB.
By late last week, State House was pushing to have the purchase of cereals and handling of NCPB moved from the Agriculture Ministry to the Office of the President Special programmes Ministry.

It is estimated that 100,000 bags of maize has in the last few months gotten in the hands of brief case dealers part of which has found its way to Southern Sudan where the prices are three to four times higher than in Kenya.

Millers investigated by KACC by last week are Beada Millers, Temusi Millers, Valley Posh Mill in Nakuru and Uchumi Grain Millers. The maize importation saga intensified with parliamentary committee oh Agriculture accusing Raila and Ruto of engaging in dubious dealings in the importation of cereals.

Led by Kaloleni MP Kambu Kazungu, the MPs called for the president to appoint an independent body to oversee the importation of maize. The committee alleged that millions of maize bags imported by the government have disappeared in unclear circumstances.

Weekly Citizen has information that 100,000 bags have been reported unaccounted for. As the revelations emerge of the maize scam, last week saw accusations traded over the role of the Prime Minister in the cancellation of an advertisement placed for a second grain handling facility.

While addressing the media, the MP for Kangundo Johnstone Muthama drew the wrath of ODM stalwarts when he linked the maize shortage to the monopoly of the Grain Bulk Handlers Limited. As if to justify the maize scandal, those from ODM who spoke in defense of the PM and GBHL linked Muthama to the now tired Goldenberg scandal. Weekly Citizen was the first to authoritatively and exclusively report on the relationship between the PM and GBHL.

GBHL has been in a protracted fight with the Kenya Ports Authority over the KPA's move to snatch its monopoly for grain handling at the port of Mombasa.

On a trip of Mombasa by Raila mid last year in which he paid a visit to GBHL offices at Shimazi, Raila moved around the town in the GBHL chairman, Mohamed H. Jaffer's Mercedes Benz KAU 065B - a car that according to our investigation which has its roots in the United Kingdom, where it is reported as stolen. Worse still, the PM's flag was moved from Raila's official vehicle and fixed onto the controversial private car.

Astonishingly, according to the registrar of vehicles records the number plate the Mercedes bore are supposed to be for a Tuk.

On his motorcade various cars that were lined up belonged to suspected tax evaders. A Lexus KAZ 858M which was given to Raila by Jaffer as a present is also on the Interpol list of stollen cars.

On the tour Raila was hosted by Jaffer for dinner. At the Kingly dinner, Raila was accompanied by ministers James Orengo and Fred Gumo.

The two cars according to our investigations were stolen from the UK and both are registered as Tuk Tuks in Kenya.

All Jaffer's nine luxurious cars, according to our investigation, bear number plates 065, while another Raila's ally in the region Mohamed Zubedi - owner of the region's famed Nawal Centre bear number 900.

And Mohammed Ali Rashid Sajjad who was ODM provincial campaign coordinator has cars whose number plates start with 786.

Most of the cars in Raila's motorcade during his visit according to documents in our possession are on the list of Interpol as some are stolen from either Dubai or UK.

The three businessmen, who had lost ground after Kanu was bundled out of office in 2002, have become powerful overnight after Raila was appointed the prime minister.

To demonstrate how powerful Sajjad has become since Raila was named prime minister, last year he ferried over 100 Asians into the country without documents and when the aliens were arrested he called for help from Agriculture minister William Ruto.

And now keen observers are questioning the reason why the premier could hold a secret meeting with a private developer - (GBHL)- in the absence of Coast MPs and KPA managers at the firm's factory for close to five hours.

Our investigations have it that Raila has an interest in Grain Bulk Handlers where he has already acquired a stake through his region point man one John Mwai.

The prime minister's men have inherited habits of former president Daniel arap Moi where the former head of state allies used to hide behind the shadow of powerful individuals in acquiring stakes in various firms.

John Mwai alias Raila as fondly referred to by those who know him is a director at Grain Bulk Handlers. However he is representing the prime minister's family interests.

The same man is also a director at an Italian-owned hotel, Hi Covo Restaurant where he also represents Raila.

As if that is not enough Mwai who is also known as Andiwo is a director at the famous Wild Waters Sports where he is also said to be safeguarding Raila's interests.

Andiwo who is reported to have been once a waiter at Casablanca Restaurant in his early days in the region, is also a director at African Safari Club.

All eyes are now focused on the owner of Casablanca Restaurant who is also well-known entertainment personality in Mombasa, whom leaders from the region are accusing of being Mwai's mentor.

Back to Raila's deal in the region, after he finished his five-hour meeting at Grain Bulk he rushed to the port issuing threats in a move which was perceived as intimidating the KPA managers before he pushed for Grain Bulk's interests at the port.

GBHL operations date back to 1976 when a company called Jaffer and Jaffer applied for lease on plot no. R/23 section 1, Kilindi High level Mombasa from East Africa Harbour Corporation (EAHC).

On 19th July 1976 vide ref.E/SHZ/L9POA EAHC responded to Jaffer and Jaffer lease application giving the company a lease. Jaffer and Jaffer then schemed and on 28th October 1976 vide ref.J.8, M/S the company requested EAHC to extend the lease period of the plot to 99 years a request they were granted but the period scaled down to 33 years.

However, after EAHC dissolved, and KPA was chartered by the act of parliament, Jaffer and Jaffer applied Wayleave from KPA to establish a grain handling terminal.

After several processes, the grain handling was in 1995 renamed Grain Bulk Handlers - the firm stands on a KPA plot.

The long and short of GBHL story is that Jaffer would later manoeuvre to get a monopoly of handling the grain at the port of Mombasa for eight years.

It is after the hue and cry by other investors that the government last year saw it fit to end the GBHL monopoly and open a window for competition as a way of increasing efficiency in that business segment.

However Jaffer has never said die in his fight to get the monopoly and that is where he lured Raila to his armpit as a partner.

GBHL monopoly was ensured by KPA managing director Brown Ondego who later moved to GBHL as an MD after his contract expired at KPA.

Ondego who is an ODM sympathizer is at present the executive chairman at the troubled Rift Valley Railways (RVR). With a second or third grain bulk handler, the price of maize would come down as the cost of packaging grains to sacks that GBHL now sets so high would be exposed to competition and he would have to bring it down to attract clients which would at the end show on shelves.

A grain bulk handler moves grains from ships through suction in pipes to its tanks which is then packaged to sacks for transportation. It is by all means and purposes a packaging factory. All types of grains to Mombasa port are packaged into sacks by GBHL. Only sugar and fertilizer comes to the port in sacks.

(Source: Weekly Citizen)

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