Lawyers James Orengo and Nelson Havi at the High Court in Kakamega. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

A company that missed out on the bid to lease Mumias Sugar Company wants the Kakamega county government locked out of the case it filed challenging the award of the tender to a Ugandan firm.

Lawyers James Orengo, for the county government, and Nelson Havi appearing for Tumaz & Tumaz Enterprises were before the High Court in Kakamega on Friday.

They could not agree on whether the county had a part in cases that arose from the lease deal.

Tumaz is owned by Julius Mwale, a US resident who was born in Butere. It was among those in the race to run the financially crippled Mumias Sugar but was aggrieved when the tender was awarded to Sarrai Group Limited

West Kenya had bid the highest at Sh36 billion while Sarrai bid at Sh5.8 billion before taking over Mumias in late December. Tumaz bid was Sh27.5 billion. At its prime, Mumias produced 250,000 tonnes of sugar every year. However, poor management and heavy debts drove it to its collapse.

Havi asked the court to strike out a petition by the county seeking to stop his client from contesting the award of the tender to Sarrai to revive the company that collapsed in 2008 before the Kenya Commercial Bank in September 2019 put it under receivership.

Havi said the county’s petition was filed in bad faith and should be dismissed with costs as it lacked substance.

“Mumias is a private company. It would amount to a quagmire if the county chooses to be part of every civilian case concerning private companies in Kakamega,” Havi told Justice William Musyoka.

He added: “The county government was not part of the lease case filed at Nairobi Milimani court’s judicial review section for it to come and ask for orders from a Kakamega court, in January, restraining Tumaz & Tumaz from interfering with Sarrai Group well aware of the Nairobi case filed last year.”

Mumias Sugar Company. [File, Standard]

Havi cited the issuance of an order, by the High Court in Kakamega on January 11, restraining Tumaz & Tumaz from interfering with the revival of Mumias only for the judge to recall the order after discovering it was in conflict with another one issued by a Nairobi court.

On December 29, 2021, Nairobi’s Milmani court called for a judicial review, looking into the circumstances under which the lease was awarded after Mwale and other bidders opposed it.

Havi termed the county government a “busy body on Mumias leasing issue” accusing it of deliberately failing to disclose to the High Court in Kakamega the existence of another case on the matter before a Nairobi court.

But Orengo insisted the county had a part in the revival of Mumias Sugar. He enumerated the functions of the county, under the County Government Act, saying the county invoked the particular Act to file the case in question.

“It used the Act in line with promoting social and economic development for its people given Mumias is agriculture-based industry and agriculture is a devolved function,” said Orengo. “Besides, the county can walk to court as an individual and file a case. There is no illegality with that.”

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