Vihiga Governor Dr Wilber Ottichilo has been living in a hotel since his election in 2017. The county forks out Sh150, 000 every month as he awaits completion of the official residence by the end of this year.
The governor’s official residence on a two-hectare parcel at Enderi in Sabatia sub-county, will cost Sh80 million. The land cost Sh23.9 million while the design for the house cost Sh24 million.
Until then, the governor holes up in a hotel and leaked tenancy agreements reads in part that “the county government of Vihiga shall thus pay to the landlord i.e. Sosa Villas Management Limited the sum of Sh1,200,000. The balance of the annual rent of Sh600,000 shall be paid by the county governor in monthly equal instalments of Sh50,000.”
The hotel, which is five kilometres from the county headquarters is a popular place and many county functions are hosted there.
Ottichilo hardly steps in his rural home in Emanyinya, Central Bunyore Ward, Emuhaya Constituency, unlike his predecessor, Moses Akaranga, who lived at his home in Elwunza where residents sought his attention most mornings.
During a local radio show, Ottichilo explained that “as a governor, I need an official residence where I can conduct my official businesses away from my private home.”
The holder of a doctorate in Natural Resource Management and Space Science further added that, “the county official residence will help me host cocktails, celebrations as well as entertain guests, who will also have an opportunity of having something.”
Ottichilo’s deputy Dr Patrick Saisi, on the other hand, lives in Kisumu’s Ruby Estate and not his rural home at Cheptulu village in Hamisi Sub-County. Part of Dr Saisi’s leaked tenancy agreement reads in part that, “the county pays Sh90,000 per month as rent for the deputy governor, translating to an annual rent of Sh1,080,000 inclusive of service charge but clear of any deductions, rent reviewed upward after every two years by both parties agreeing.”
The agreement notes that the money will be paid only once, on August 21 every year and money credited to Zacharia Obonyo Olewe, the agent. Like his boss, construction of the deputy’s mansion is also underway.
Some locals at Emanyinya, the governor’s village lamented that his absence meant diminished windfall of “goodies” and some quarters have resorted to theories why the county chief troops to his home like a visitor.
Ottichilo explained during a recent public event that, “even if you say your governor is mean, I want to declare I am mean and I am a miser. There is no way I am going to give you money for nothing, even if it means doing a one term as your governor.”
Vihiga Senator George Khaniri has questioned the need for a governor’s residence yet the county- with a wanting development record- is one of Kenya’s smallest and in any case “a governor has his own house at (his rural) home.”
He said the over Sh100 million that will be splashed for both mansions can be channelled to more crucial sectors like infrastructure, education, water, trade and agriculture.
“We are having our priorities wrong if we think that we really need the governor’s residence in Vihiga, yet our poverty levels are at 62 per cent. MCAs must stand firm and block this,” he said.
In November last year, Ottichilo said construction of the Sh80 million residence will go on and will be a symbol of county unity and is thus “an unstoppable venture.”