Wilfred Nyamu Mati: A Constitutional Lawyer Leading in Devolution Cases
Wilfred Nyamu is an Advocate of over 20 years standing and the managing partner of Nyamu & Nyamu Advocates.
Nyamu has carved a niche as a leading Constitutional Lawyer with a bias for Devolution matters.
Nyamu is the preferred lawyers for Governors fighting impeachment.
A popular joke has it that Wilfred Nyamu Mati is one of the handful of civilians who have addressed the Senate of Kenya more times and longer than even some of the current Senators. It owes to the fact that Nyamu was the pioneer Advocate to enter appearance for a Governor facing impeachment at the Senate when he represented Embu Governor Martin Wambora. Indeed, while it is almost a proverb that Governor Wambora has nine lives and a rate knack for survival as a politician, truth is that his secret weapon is the unwavering tenacity and unrelenting legal representation of Nyamu as his lead Lawyer.
Over time, Nyamu has become the go-to lawyer for dozens of Governors, County Governments and high profile individuals facing existential legal threats that require a sharp legal mind to make their case and turn around their fortunes. The flamboyant Governor of Nairobi City Mike Sonko brought Lawyer Nyamu in the last minute to lead his legal team in handling the Impeachment Proceedings and the subsequent court petitions that seeking to overturn the Senate Decision to impeach him. Sonko has also retained Nyamu to help in his defense against the corruption, economic crimes and terrorism charges facing him.
In the last 10 years, Wilfred Nyamu has established himself as a vanguard in constitutional litigation with a strong bias for devolution law and electoral disputes. Nyamu has acted for senior clients and county governments in numerous and complex constitutional petitions and references in all levels of courts in Kenya including the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Kenya. Nyamu is one of the few lawyers who can take pride in having built an enviable litigation practice from scratch to the level of representing high status individuals purely based on referrals based on his good work and excellent advocacy skills.
As proof of Nyamu’s increasing popularity as the lawyer of choice for many VIPs in Kenya, he was instructed to mount defense in 11 election petitions (all by elected leaders) in 2017. To his credit, he won 9 of them in the first instance at High Court and then appealed and won the rest either at Court of Appeal or upon appeal at the Supreme Court. Nyamu is preferred by many of his clients because of his fighting spirit, the honesty to give them impassioned legal opinions about their chances of success in the case at hand and the ability to craft a winning strategy even where other lawyers see no way to a win.
Several cases that Lawyer Nyamu has handled on behalf of Governors stand out. One of the most outstanding was the twin impeachment motions against Governor Martin Wambora in February and May 2014 where in the second instance Nyamu famously walked out of the Senate Committee established to investigate the motion after accusing the team of prejudice against his client since the same Committee had recommended his ouster in the earlier impeachment in February 2014.
Nyamu had earlier managed to convince the High Court to stay the impeachment of Governor Wambora by the Senate in February 2014. However, even as the County Assembly of Embu proceeded to appeal the High Court decision at Court of Appeal, they lodged a new impeachment motion against Wambora in May 2014 which sailed through the Assembly and was before the Senate Committee, hence Nyamu's walkout.
What followed the walkout was a very complex and passionate court battle waged by Lawyer Nyamu on behalf of Governor Wambora that truly defined the jurisprudence of impeachment of County Governors in Kenya and made both their names name synonymous with it. On 1st October 2014, Nyamu won the appeal in favour of the Embattled Embu Governor with the Court of Appeal upholding the earlier High Court ruling which reinstated him to office.
But as his client resumed office, Nyamu resumed his battle before a three High Court Judge Bench in the case challenging the second impeachment which Senate had imposed despite his walkout from the Committee. On 13th February, 2015, the High Court proceeded to uphold the impeachment as per the resolution of the Embu County Assembly dated 29th April 2014 and a resolution of the senate special committee endorsing the same.
However, Nyamu saved the day by quickly rising to his feet to convince the judges to grant 14 days stay of the judgement pending appeal ensuring his client stayed in office while he fought in court. In the meantime, Nyamu rushed to Court of Appeal where he secured a conservatory order staying the High Court decision for his client to continue to exercise his powers as Governor of Embu County pending the hearing of the Appeal. In the aftermath, Nyamu constituted a team of 7 lawyers including two Senior Counsel to help him argue his client's case before the Court of Appeal culminating in the nullification of Wambora's impeachment in December 2015 with the Appeal Court ruling that there was no clear evidence that he acted in gross violation of the Constitution, warranting his impeachment.
After the High Court nullified the impeachment of Wambora, Nyamu had cited the Embu Speaker among others for disregarding the orders. The Speaker contested the contempt orders in Court of Appeal which upheld them prompting an appeal in the Supreme Court which after two long years of legal battle overturned the orders in December 2017. But Nyamu had long made his point by compelling the County Assembly to respect High Court and Court of Appeal decisions overturning the impeachment of his client which remained in force for the remainder of his first term.
Nyamu is also well-known for his handling of the Governor Alfred Mutua Election Petition in 2017. By all standards, that was one of the most bitterly fought election petitions of 2017 stretching for more than 1 year from the High Court, through Court of Appeal, all the way to Supreme Court. for justice to be done for his client. After the High court upheld the Election of Governor Alfred Mutua, his opponent successfully contested the decision in the court of Appeal and everyone thought all was lost. However, Nyamu appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that Court of appeal erred in "admitting the Appeal for hearing based on the need for substantive justice under Article 159(2) of the Constitution and proceeding to nullify the election based on technicalities." Supreme Court agreed with Nyamu finding that procedural technicalities in the elections did not warrant the nullification.
History appears to be repeating itself in the case of Governor Sonko where Nyamu is waging war on multiple front to get his client back to office. After the Senate impeached Sonko even as they acknowledged that Nyamu and his fellow lawyers had succeeded in showing the grounds levelled against Sonko did not hold water, he lodged a constitutional petition pending in the High Court to challenge the decision. In between the main petition, Nyamu has fought many applications and related cases and as usual appears ready to fight for his client all the way to Supreme Court if that is what it takes.
Nyamu has proven to be always ready to fight until justice is done for every of his client. He did it for Governor Kivutha when he was impeached by Makueni despite Nyamu’s best efforts fighting his way to High Court where he succeeded to bar the Senate from discussing his client’s impeachment. He is doing it also for Waititu where he is challenging his impeachment with the case pending in High Court. In all these cases and more, Nyamu has earned his reputation as the constitutional lawyer who never stops fighting until his clients win, whatever it takes! Nyamu has also declared his interest to seek to be elected the Kitui's third Senator in the coming elections, we wait to see if he will become the first Kitui lawyer to represent the County in the Senate.