Lawmakers of the Taraba State House of Assembly seem to be divided over the fitness or otherwise of the state governor, Danbaba Suntai, to resume work as the chief executive.
Suntai had just arrived from New York on Sunday after spending 10 months abroad for medical treatment following the injuries he sustained when he crashed a jet he was piloting near Yola, the Adamawa state capital.
While the speaker of the state Assembly, Hon. Haruna Tsokwa, disclosed that Suntai was not fit to resume duties on the grounds that the Assembly was yet to gain access to the governor to ascertain his medical fitness, the majority leader, Hon Joseph Kunini, claimed that the governor was fit to resume work and that the Assembly had received a letter from him to this effect.
However, the speaker insisted that the deputy governor, Alhaji Garba Umar, would remain in office as acting governor until further notice.
Tsokwa, who described the political situation in the state as worrisome, expressed concern that four days after Suntai’s return to the state, the leadership of the Assembly was yet to gain access to him, adding that despite several calls to his residence to see him, the governor’s wife had refused to allow the lawmakers to meet Suntai.
Speaking to journalists in the state yesterday, Tsokwa said that the political trend in the state needs to be handled with care to avoid anarchy and described the press conference by the majority leader, Hon Kunini, yesterday in Jalingo as a calculated attempt to plunge the state into crisis.
The speaker added that the delay in addressing journalists since the arrival of the ailing governor was a deliberate attempt to ensure that the Assembly is properly acquainted with the correct position of the matter.
According to the speaker, the claim by majority leader and his associates that he (the speaker and his deputy) had run away from the office to an undisclosed place to avoid meeting with people was unfounded, saying that they had been in the state trying to attend to some important matters that needed the urgent attention of the leadership of the House.
The speaker urged those trying to foment crisis in the state to desist as the state is in dire need of prayers from everyone.
Suntai fit to resume – Majority Leader
Meanwhile, the majority leader, Hon Kunini, has stated that the state Assembly is satisfied that Suntai has fully resumed duty, having fulfilled Section 190 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) requiring him to transmit a letter to the Assembly communicating that he is back to the state to continue his duties as governor.
Kunini, who said he spoke with journalists in Jalingo yesterday on behalf of the speaker, deputy speaker, and other principal officers of the Assembly, said that they had received the letter sent from Suntai to the Assembly and had confirmed that Suntai was capable of restarting his work of governing the state.
He said that before briefing journalists, he the majority leader of the House, had verified the letter sent to the House by Suntai, and that the letter was accepted based on their verification.
He noted that the said Section 190 subsections 2 of the constitution made it mandatory for the governor to transmit a letter to the Assembly informing it that he is physically fit to resume office.
Kunini said, “Governor Suntai has done well to have sent a letter to the House. He can even decide to sent a text, if he so wishes.
“According to the constitution, the governor “may” appear before the House if he wants to. A governor is not under any obligation to appear before the House.
When asked why the Assembly suspended sitting to deliberate on the letter sent to it by Suntai, he told journalists that sitting was part of the work of the Assembly and that House was supposed to sit for 181 days within a particular legislative calendar.
He also noted that the Assembly could not sit between yesterday and today because members had no serious business to discuss due to preparations for the oncoming PDP convention.
He however denied the insinuation by some members of the public that the state Assembly was factionalised.
“Nobody is for Umar and nobody is for Suntai”, he said, and reassured Tarabans and Nigerians that the ailing governor would soon appear to speak to the people of the state.