It’s now confirmed and official that Nzoia Sugar Managing Director Michael Wanjala Makokha has been suspended and replaced by a Sugar Sector guru from Busia who is a civil servant from the Ministry of Agriculture in acting capacity.
The move follows a number of complaints from stakeholders led by farmers, workers and cane cutters over his poor leadership with so much PR and promises at the expense of real change. Agriculture CS Munya issued guidelines that farmers must be paid within 7 days after supplying their cane to the factory but at Nzoia this has not been applied.
Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma has been a key pillar of the county’s economy for years. However, the entity went to factory settings due to mismanagement by various leadership at the expense of the hardworking farmer.
In 2019, CPA Michael Wanjala Makokha was appointed by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri to head the factory after the passing on of Michael Kulundu following a kidnap and torture. However, the coming of Wanjala that was seen as a solution to the ailing factory seems to have added more problems than solutions as depicted by farmers, workers and cane cutters.
Since taking over, Wanjala has been involved in a series of management tricks that have never brought back the factory to life. Infact, the debt sealing at the factory has been rising to billions even after the Government wrote off the debts. For instance, he cut all the indigenous trees of the company and sold to various entities with proceeds not being traced. Thereafter, he cut the sugarcane in the vast 3000 acres nucleus farm and sold to rival West Kenya in what he termed as meant to get funds to Jumpstart the factory.
In 2019, Agriculture CS Peter Munya and his Devolution counterpart CS Eugene Wamalwa led a team from he national Government, western Kenya Governors and leaders for a consultative meeting at the ailing factory. The meeting was part of the suggestions by the Sugar sector Taskforce report that had underpinned the issues in the factory.
From the report, Nzoia has been suffering due to poor management, old production models and huge accrued debts. Even in the meeting, CS munya said that despite writing off debts, the company had already accrued over 1b in debts majorly owned to farmers and workers.
At the end, the Agriculture and Food Authority in conjunction with the Privatization Authority was tasked to come up with ways to lease the factories and offer solutions. As start, the CS disbanded the board of Nzoia but the process was later halted by a court order.
It’s said that the Nzoia MD took advantage of absence of the board to make decisions individually without any oversight. From insiders, major decisions touching on finances and Procurement have been made directly by the MD without involvement of senior management. For instance, an insurance contract was awarded to a firm from Kisumu with links to the MD and a leading politician from Bungoma without advertisements and followed down Procurement laws. The same with legal tenders, car hires, security tender etc.
Makokha, who is known to be full of pride, arrogant and know it all mentality has been accused by many as people too authoritative while looting the poor factory to its knees. This he does so while hiding in so much PR and marketing with no material figures to show his performance to stakeholders. With farmers owed money in millions since 2019 and workers in unpaid arrears, the transformative agenda at Nzoia seems to have been only benefiting Makokha and his few cronies.
Area Mp Wafula Wamunyinyi who is also pushing for the sugar sector bill has been instrumental in having the Nzoia issues addressed after farmers asked for his indulgence due to poor leadership under former MD Makokha.
His Suspension from Nzoia offers relieve to the angry and hungry farmers who have been decrying his leadership skills with no results. There is no doubt that Nzoia has been in the wrong hands of an individual eager for self that the whole. Locals can only hope for a better solution to the factory with consultative leadership and real-time results and payments to stakeholders.