Prolific lawyer Okiya Omtatah has termed claims that he had gone to court to block a phased out schools reopening as bogus. Mr. Omtatah said he had not filed a law-suit to block schools reopening next week after more than 7 months closure to curb the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic.
This follows claims in social media and on various blogs websites where it was alleged that Okiya Omtatah claimed that parents were not served with enough advance notice in order to prepare for the staggered reopening of Grade 4, Standard 8 and Form 4 classes next. The reopening of the other classes is expected to follow a few weeks later.
A tweet by @Kimanzi-Don for example generated more than 365 retweets with more than 2,000 people replying to it thinking it was true. Apparently, someone had created a fake Twitter account from which they are tweeting and then claiming that it was Mr. Omtatah doing so.
“Activist Okiya Omtatah moves to court to oppose the move by Education CS George Magoha to have school re-opened on October 12, 2020 for Grade 4, Class 8 and Form 4 learners. Argues Government hasn’t yet put up strained measures to tackle Covid-19,” read the tweet.
On Tuesday, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion urged Kenyan parents to heed to government’s plans to reopen schools as there is no reason to keep learners grounded at home since the COVID-19 curve has already been flattened.
“We are satisfied schools are safe to re-open and has been guided by the World Health Organization,” said Sossion.
Lawyer Okiya Omtatah is well known to frustrate the national government with lawsuits in the past to the extent of irritating President Uhuru Kenyatta.
On January 23, 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta questioned the motives of Okiya Omtatah when the lawyer moved to court to block the Huduma Number registration exercises. The president alleged that Mr. Omtatah was up to no good and could actually be working for the government detractors.
This follows a string of lawsuits filed by Okiya Omtatah to stop various key projects launched by the national government in the past.
“I ask myself that 99 cases are filed by one person and you give him injunctions the same day.. chukua hii… funga hii… funga hii (take this..close this..close this..) there is something there.. one must interrogate,” president Kenyatta said.
In October 2017, activist Okiya Omtatah went to court to stop the importation of duty-free sugar which the High Court did. But this was ignored by the National Treasury officials.
In 2018, Okiya Omtatah filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend the implementation of the police reforms announced by president Uhuru Kenyatta. Mr. Omtatah argued that the President has no power under the Constitution to effect changes in the structure of National Police service.
On September 2019, Okiya Omtatah won a court battle that had been before the court for six years. Mr. Omtatah had challenged the ownership of land registered under Nasewa Nucleus Estate in Busia county. The courts agreed and revoked the title deed issued to Nasewa, reverting it to the Ministry of Lands.
In December 2019, Mr. Omtatah ruined the celebration of two National Land Commissioner nominees when he filed a lawsuit disputing their appointments. He moved to court saying the recruitment process of the new NLCs was a sham and did not follow the due process.
He further argues that the recruitment exercise was done in an opaque manner including failure to publish the results of the interviews conducted.
President Uhuru Kenyatta officially appointed Mr. Gershom Otachi as NLC chairman and Ms. Esther Murugi, Prof. James Tuitoek, Ms. Gertrude Nguku, Mr. Reginald Okumu, Mr. Kazungu Kambi, Ms. Tiyah Galgalo, Ms. Hubbie Al-Haji and Mr. Alister Mutugi as members of the commission after their approval by parliament.
The High Court however stopped the swearing in of the nine commissioners pending the hearing of the lawsuit filed by activist Okiya Omtatah.