Is Treasury stopping the BBI train?

By Mourice Seretta 

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Secretariat yesterday morning submitted more than 3 million signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020.

The secretariat ferried the more than 3 million signatures from its Headquarters in Nairobi at Daraja House in two minibuses to IEBC offices at Anniversary Towers.

The secretariat had collected more than 5.2 million signatures but will only submit 3 million to IEBC after it sieved through them and found that 3 million were the only ones that seemed valid.

Despite that, IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati said that the commission currently has a cash crisis that will hinder the commission from verifying the signatures.

Chebukati on Thursday said that the commission had no budgetary allocation and will make a requisition from The Treasury.

“The commission’s work starts from here after receiving the signatures. We shall now proceed and request a budget from the National Treasury. Of course, we shall not commence verifying them until we get facilitation for the same,” Chebukati said outside Anniversary Towers yesterday. 

Chebukati also told the BBI Secretariat that got him the signatures that he was not sure of how long the verification of the signatures will take without getting funds for the same from the National Treasury.

The IEBC chairperson’s remarks can be construed to mean that the looming referendum that was to be held mid next year can stretch to a different date if The National Treasury fails to procure the much-needed funds for the verification process to IEBC.

Earlier on, Chebukati also hinted that to go into a referendum, the taxpayer will need to meet the costs at Sh14 billion, figures that ODM leader Raila Odinga who is the vocal proponent of the BBI drive disputed.

Raila said that the figures were exaggerated and said the taxpayer will only pay almost Sh2 billion to cater for the same.

Chebukati did not disclose the exact figure that his commission needs to verify the signatures but pundits opine that the Sh14 billion he had earlier stated might also include the amount to verify the signatures.

Stopping of ‘BBI train’ will also sound as good music to Deputy President William Ruto who has expressed reservations to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 that is basically a brainchild of BBI saying if a referendum has to be held in the country, it has to be held together with the General Elections of 2022.

Ruto for instance says that funds that will be used on the BBI drive were needed to be channeled to handle serious matters like the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit the country hard.

The second in command also offered that the funds were to be used to pay striking health sector workers ‘if the government was to have its priorities right’. 

That will be a hard nut to crack as the other vocal proponent of the BBI drive is none other than President Uhuru Kenyatta.

It will be a matter of time to see if President Kenyatta will whip the National Treasury to deliver funds to IEBC so as to enable the commission to verify the signatures and later on conduct a referendum.

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