By Annette Wambulwa
Want to impeach a governor? Or defend him or her?
Lawyer Ndegwa Njiru is your man, though he says he doesn’t pick a side and pursues justice.
Ndegwa was chosen as one of the Star’s Persons of the Year.
He is one of the most sought-after lawyers when it comes to impeachment cases, though he has only practised for 9 years.
You can watch him in action representing Nairobi County Assembly against Governor Mike Sonko.
The lawyer shot to prominence in June during the Senate hearing of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru’s impeachment by the county assembly.
Ndegwa represented MCAs.
She was cleared but an 11-member committee called for investigation into an improper “web” of influence in tendering.
Ndegwa trended on social media as Kenyans marvelled at how skillfully he handled the case.
He was being watched by millions of Kenyans, especially Kirinyaga residents whom he said he was representing.
The lawyer was praised for being eloquent and giving Waiguru’s witnesses a hard time during cross-examination over alleged abuse of office and procurement issues.
Ndegwa has been involved in almost all the high-profile impeachment cases, including those of Embu Governor Martin Wambora and former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu. He defended both.
Waititu and Wambora were impeached but Ndegwa secured court orders to reinstate Wambora. Waititu’s reinstatement case is pending.
Speaking to the Star, Ndegwa said he represents both governors and county assemblies and does not choose a particular side in impeachment cases.
“I am not motivated by where the public lies in any of the impeachment cases, but rather with where justice falls,” Ndegwa said.
He is one of the lawyers representing the Nairobi County Assembly in Governor Mike Sonko’s impeachment.
He caused ripples recently when he accused a judge in open court of receiving a Sh7 million bribe in the Sonko impeachment case.
Kenyans should expect another legal battle in the Senate where Ndegwa and other lawyers will face off in Sonko’s impeachment case.
Ndegwa, who was admitted to the bar in 2011, says he is passionate about impeachment cases because he wants to protect and strengthen devolution, which he calls the engine of growth.
He said it cannot be protected “if we don’t speak to the cause of accountability and transparency, especially prudent use of public resources.
“If we can realise the principles and purpose of devolution in this country, it will take us a few years to be in the second world, not the third world,” he said.
“This [impeachment law] is a new emerging field in our jurisprudence and it’s highly constitutional and political,” he said.
He said he focuses on the highly constitutional aspects, having studied law in Uganda. There’s been constitutional turmoil in that country “so I got that bias in favour of constitutional law,” Ndegwa said.
In the nine years he has practiced law, he says one of the highlights was the Wambora case.
“I take pride in that because it was the first of its nature to be developed in this country and I feel humbled that I was involved from its inception to the conclusion,” Ndegwa said.
He had been practising for only three years when the case came up. He called Wambora to tell him he had an approach that could sort him out even save him from impeachment.
“Of course, he could not listen to me, he went for the big shot lawyers,” Ndegwa said.
He said he decided to go ahead and file the case, though he was not one of Wambora’s lawyers and had a few challenges as a young lawyer at the time.
Ndegwa said by the time he was arguing the application, Wambora had already been impeached and removed from office.
However, he was able to secure court orders reinstating him. It was a landmark ruling.
Ndegwa said, “When I told him I have the orders reinstating him he could not believe it. He asked me, ‘Ndegwa, what miracle have you done’?”
He had done what big shot lawyers had not been able to do and has good rapport with Wambora, known as the county boss with nine lives.
Ndegwa is also representing Governor Waititu who is awaiting the court’s decision on whether he will be reinstated.
“In his case, the procedures of impeachment were never followed and the procedures for the swearing-in of the Governor James Nyoro were also never followed,” he added.
The Waititu case has been pending for a whole year because the Chief Justice has not constituted a bench to hear the case. This means, he said, Waititu’s case is being “mutilated” by the lapse of time.
Another achievement includes petitioning the court alongside current LSK council member George Omwanza to allow lawyers admitted to the bar to set up their own law firms.
Previously an advocate would not be allowed to set up his own practice until after two years. Apprenticeship in a law firm was required.
Following that challenge in court, he set up his practice from very humble beginnings.
“I was hosted by the former chairman of Kepsa (Kenya Private Sector Alliance) Sam Mwaura for a year without paying rent, which was a Godsend,” he said.
Ndegwa said his motivation is evening the odds in society as a social engineer. He said he is trying to remedy wrongs and give hope to the hopeless.
“My inspiration is to see that we achieve a just society, it may be difficult but my contribution and that of others’ will end up giving us good building blocks,” he said.
The son of a teacher, Ndegwa was born in Gichugu constituency in Kirinyaga county and from modest beginnings, he said he has forged a name for himself.
He attended Kerugoya Municipality School, Kianyaga High School and Kampala International University to study law. Ndegwa returned to Kenya and joined the Kenya School of Law.
Growing up, Ndegwa would accompany his father to court for court hearings and at a young age, he admired the lawyer’s arguments and wanted to be like them.
“As early as 1993, Mzee a teacher by profession used to take us to court and he was mentoring us without knowing it,” he said.
Ndegwa said when he was young he met young lawyer Wairimu Rugaita and admired how she carried herself as a lawyer. This also made him want to be a lawyer.
Ndegwa, who has three brothers and three sisters, says he used to be the ‘lawyer’ and ‘appear’ on behalf of his young siblings who had been oppressed by either party growing up. That’s also how he became interested in the law.
Now he is the father of two.
He founded Ndegwa and Ndegwa Advocates where he practises alongside his wife and his younger brother.
He challenges young lawyers looking up to him to follow their passion and not money, saying they will only survive if they have integrity.
“If you are driven by the money and a quick killing, you may not make it because in this profession money comes progressively,” he said.
If you are motivated by money, you will end up stealing from your clients, which may cause LSK issues and thus ruin your career.
“We all need to take up the mantle of righting the wrongs in this society. We [lawyers] can be the building blocks as we seek social justice in economics and political growth,” he said.
Courtesy of “The Star Newspaper”