The Taraba State Governor Darius Ishaku is set to convert the Danbaba Suntai Airport to an international airport, based on cargo lifting.
Governor, Ishaku stated this when he inspected the ongoing routine maintenance work at the airport which led to its closure on November 4, 2018, and reopening November 16, 2018.
He reiterated the desire of his administration to get a dedicated flight which will in no small measure help in the haulage of the state’s greenhouse produce alongside other food products from the state to boost its economy.
The decision according to the Governor followed the killing of the drivers conveying the State’s greenhouse produce to Lagos, Port Harcourt Abuja and other parts of the country by armed robbers.
He said hopes should not be dashed on the commencement of flights by Taraba Airlines as it has been finally registered, after three years of judicial struggle on its authenticity and usage, pointing out that the state government may consider leasing the Taraba airlines out.
The Governor also commended passengers who patronise the airport for their patience during the period of routine maintenance.
A Legal Practitioner, George Ekeh, believes that the interpretation of ‘permanent incapacitation’ as suggested by the an aide of Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, to justify his stay in office is not realistic.
“If we start looking at permanent incapacitation, that section of the constitution can never be invoked. It cannot be because if you start looking at when someone is permanently incapacitated, the person would have been dead.”
Ekeh said that from all indication, Governor Suntai has lost his fitness to cope with the demands of the office of a Governor.
He demanded a contextual interpretation of the constitutional provision on permanent incapacitation as this would be necessary in resolving the matter.
Ekeh also maintained, contrary to Bello’s submission, that the Suntai case is very similar to what was experienced during late President Yar’adua’s illness.
He stated that some level of political morality crept into the unfortunate incident and this is what the Governor’s loyalists are basing their acts on – to keep the Governor in office and help him run the affairs of the state.
He said that the medical panel recently set up by the State Assembly should have been set up long ago as verifying the state of the Governor’s fitness and capacity to run the office would have saved the state all the trouble.
On the need not to portray insensitivity to the leadership capacity of people living with disability through the Suntai matter, Ekeh noted that this should not be offensive as a crippled man with a sound mind can run any office but Governor Suntai, by his observation, has also “lost orientation with regards to time and place – where he was, where he is and where he possibly would be going to.
“On the surface he may look healthy but we are now talking about if he is fit to run and take the demands of that office.”
He maintained that physical and mental fitness make up the capacity of the Governor to remain in office.
Mr Ekeh also said that having waited for about two years for the Governor to recover and he seems not to have achieved the level of fitness expected of a man in the very demanding office of the Governor, the constitution recommends that he should be led out of the office.
A Political Scientist, Kabiru Mato, has described the political logjam between the Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, and his deputy, Garba Umar, as one of the most unfortunate political scenarios Nigeria has faced since 1999.
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, he likened the issue to the situation experienced during the illness of late President Umar Yar’adua in 2009, when according to him, some people within the President’s cabinet decided to shield the true picture of issues.
While he expressed his sympathy for Governor Suntai, he said that a lot of political intrigues have been going on the state, with some of his loyalists taking advantage of his condition to hold the state to ransom.
On October 12, 2012, Governor Suntai was involved in a helicopter accident that has kept him in and out of the hospital for two years.
Mato explained that the House of Assembly, after three weeks of the accident, decided that the Deputy Governor should take over as acting governor and the business of the state has been well managed since then.
While saying that this should have been more important to the stakeholders, he alleged that the reason for the deadlock is that some persons who have personal interests to protect were using the Governor as a tool to achieve their aims.
“Did you see him when they brought him to Abuja sometime last week? He did not look well,” Mako said, blaming his loyalists for subjecting him to ridicule for their own selfish interests.
Mako also noted that politics and democracy are all about attitude, as the lack of the right attitude to handle it would not produce the right results. He linked the adamant attitude of Governor Suntai’s loyalists to the closeness of the 2015 general elections.
Using an indisposed Governor as a tool to protect personal interests and fight political battles is “the most immoral, apolitical and disgraceful” act that should not be allowed in any democracy.
On the need to verify if the Governor had truly become permanently incapacitated as recommended by the constitution before he could be removed from office, Mato admitted that it might be scientifically hard to determine if someone is permanently incapacitated but looking at the condition of the Governor, it would be realistic to accept that he lacked the capacity to carry out his usual activities.
He, however, admitted that until May 29, 2015, Governor Suntai remains the Governor of Taraba State as long as he is still in the hospital recuperating.
The State House of Assembly during the week set up a medical panel to resolve the impasse by proving if Governor Suntai is capable of leading the state or not; a decision Mato said was constitutionally wrong but morally right.
On the implication of the political confusion on the security situation of Taraba State, Mako noted that the while there had been some attacks by insurgents in the state in the past, the majority of Taraba’s security challenges are based on ethnic differences.
He, however, admitted that the weakened state of leadership in the state exposes the state to weakened level of security.
Injured Not Permanently Incapacitated
Former Commissioner for Information in Taraba State, Emmanuel Bello, who joined the conversation via the telephone, however, said that there has been a gap in Mako’s views of the Taraba deadlock because he had been observing the Taraba matters from a distance.
After putting his weight behind the capacity of the State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, to remain in office, he said that Nigerians need to understand that the issue had become more complicated with a lot of illegality going on the state.
He stated that Taraba State had become an illegal state at the moment with two governors, two SSGs and in addition an illegal panel set up by the House of Assembly.
He also quoted the Nigerian Constitution which states that a governor could only be removed from office when he is permanently incapacitated and not when he is injured, adding that only doctors can determine that.
He added that there are many seemingly healthy people who are not healthy, including the Deputy Governor who has his own health challenges as well. Therefore, it would be unideal to consider Governor Suntai incapacitated.
Mako agreed with Bello that indeed there were more to the Taraba issue than meets the eye but disagreed on the capacity of the Governor, claiming that incapacitation in the case should be seen as the inability to carry out the regular activities one used to engage in.
Mako said further that the whole issue in Taraba State was built around religious sentiments as having the Deputy Governor fully take over would amount to a power shift which some persons are not willing to allow.
Bello commended Dr. Mako for his theoretical view of things but maintained that there were major errors in his analysis.
He noted that religion is indeed a strong factor but in Taraba State, the people are more united as most families have a mix of both religions as reflected in his own name – Emmanuel Bello.
He added that the strongest antagonistic to Danbaba’s return has been the Speaker of the House of Assembly who is a Christian like Governor Suntai, likewise many Muslims are in support of the Governor.
He also added that the case of Danbaba and Yar’adua were very different as Danbaba is still very “alive and kicking”.
Mr Bello submitted that the reality was that Taraba has a Deputy Governor who has been trying to tear the state apart along religious and ethnic lines without any regard for the constitution, court injunctions and loyalty to Governor Danbaba whom he owes his political rise to.
He expressed his displeasure at the medical panel set up by the Assembly claiming that the State Executive that set up the panel was illegal based on a court order that barred the Deputy Governor, Garba Umar, from setting up a new executive.
He also said that the Governor’s loyalists were not happy with the make-up of medical doctors in the medical panel set up by the House of Assembly.
He recommended that the first way to find a solution would be to respect all court orders and for the Deputy Governor to stop being in charge since the constitution has said that this should be the case as soon as the Governor returns.
He also called on all Nigerians and the Presidency to condemn the illegalities in the state.
Dr. Mako, however, noted that it remains the duty of the state to solve its own issues, adding that there could be no illegality in the setting up of an Exco.
He had some words for the Governor’s loyalist saying they should be honest to the themselves, the people of Taraba and Nigerians and stop using the amiable Danbaba Suntai as a political guinea pig.
The Acting Governor of Taraba State, Garba Umar, has described as untrue, rumours emanating from few disgruntled politicians in the state that he has abandoned the ailing Governor Danbaba Suntai, and has hijacked all the government structures.
Garba Umar stated emphatically that he has only been holding brief pending when Governor Suntai would recover and resume work as the substantive Governor.
Governor Danbaba Suntai has been out of office due to his incapacitation as a result of the injuries he sustained in the helicopter crash he had 2years ago.
According to Umar, those who are peddling the rumour are politicians who wanted to take advantage of Suntai’s condition to pursue their selfish ambitions and malign him with his boss to create a political war in the state, because they found out they were in close contact and enjoy robust relationship.
Debunking the rumour before newsmen in Kaduna, Secretary to the Taraba State Government, Mr Garvey Yawe, said that contrary to such negative insinuations by some aggrieved political associates of Suntai, the Acting Governor has been in close contact with his boss, and always consults him on every decision he takes in day to day running of the state, as he (Suntai) remained Governor.
He added that the Government has been shouldering the medical bills of the ailing Governor Suntai since he had the accident that almost claimed his life. He has been undergoing treatment in the United Kingdom and would soon resume to work.
He also spoke on the incessant communal clashes rocking some parts of the state, whereby several people have been killed. He accused some highly placed individuals in the state of frustrating all the peace efforts initiated by the State Government to end the crisis.
Sunrise Daily Host, Chamberlain Usoh on Wednesday morning gave a review of the major highlights, issues and episodes of the programme in 2013, including the Nigeria Governor’s Forum crisis in which two chairmen, Jonah Jang and Chibuike Amaechi, emerged following a controversial election which was held in May 2013.
According to a statement by Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji, the purported election that returned Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) was a ruse.
Other issues highlighted were the return of Taraba state governor, Danbaba Suntai, who was deemed unfit to continue to hold office as a result of his health, alleged fabrications by the Abia state government on its various achievements which an investigative journalist challenged on the programme.
Finally, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) employment scam which led to an interview with the then Lagos State commandant, Obafaiye Shem. The interview with the officer, who was unable to state the official website of the agency, went viral online and produced the popular phrase, ‘Oga At The Top.”
Former governor of Taraba state, Reverend Jolly Nyame, today (Friday) visited recuperating Governor Danbaba Suntai at the Government House, Jalingo, before attending a church thanksgiving service held in honour of the ailing governor at the Life and Destiny Church, Jalingo.
Reverend Nyame urged citizens of the state to bury their differences and pray for the quick recovery of the governor insisting that the progress and development of the state should be the concern of every Taraba state citizen.
Governor Suntai, in his response, expressed gratitude to the former governor for finding a place in his heart to forgive and visit him in his moment of trial.
With this reconciliatory steps taken by the duo, Taraba people, particularly the political class should bury their hatchet and come together in moving the state towards greater heights.
Former Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon has visited governor of Taraba state, Mr Danbaba Suntai in Government House Jalingo.
Gowon prayed for the quick recovery of the governor, noting that the governor needs the support of everyone at this trying period.
Gowon said that “ I am delighted that this opportunity is made for us to be able to see him and pray for him for full recovery and to pray for your state” and prayed that “God will bless him and, bless the people and government of the state”.
Suntai on his part, thanked the former head of state for the visit.
The High Court of Taraba state sitting in Jalingo yesterday granted an order of interim injunction restraining the speaker and the members of the Taraba State House of Assembly from acting on any letter written by the acting governor of the state.
The Acting Governor, Alhaji Garba Umar is said to have written a letter to the state House of Assembly seeking the approval of certain persons to be appointed into the Taraba State Executive Council as commissioners.
The names of the commissioners pending approval as contained in the letter was admitted by the court as Exhibit F.
After hearing an application filed by the governor of the state, Danbaba Suntai, the presiding judge, Justice Ali Andenyangtso granted the order restraining the state House of Assembly from acting on it pending the determination of a suit on the matter.
Taraba State Acting Governor Alhaji Garba Umar had forwarded the names of six commissioner nominees to the state House of Assembly for consideration and confirmation.
“Pursuance to Section 192 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all powers enabling me in that regard, I have the honour of forwarding herewith the list of nominees for appointment as commissioners/members State Executive Council for your consideration and confirmation” , Umar said. Those nominated include; Barrister Musa Tende (Donga), Mathias Danazumi (Zing), Iliya Ali Lege (Ibi), Hajia Batulu K. Mohammed (Gashaka), Ate Sale Kundu (Wukari) and Sa’adu Shehu Ajuji (Gassol).
New Speaker, Josiah Sabo Kente, who read the letter to the House, subsequently ordered that the commissioner nominees appear before the House for screening today (Tuesday) after members unanimously affirmed their nomination.
Assembly Defies Court Order
Taraba State House of Assembly on Tuesday screened six persons nominated to be commissioners by the state deputy governor Alhaji Garba Umar.
The move came barely 24 hours after Governor Danmbaba Suntai obtained an order of the State High Court restraining the law makers from screening the commissionership nominees.
However, brushing aside the court order, the law makers led by newly-appointed Speaker Josiah Kente screened Musa Tende, Mathias Danazumi, Iliya Ali Legs and Ate Sale Kundu.
In addition, the law makers screened Hajiya Batulu Mohammed, and Sa’adu Shehu Atuji.
Speaker Kente told reporters that he was not aware of any order restraining the Assembly from confirming the commissioner nominees.
Chief of Staff to the Taraba State Governor, Mr Aminu Jika has debunked the claim that state has been paralysed after the dissolution of the state executive council.
He justified the delay in constituting another one saying “the law allows for three months without an executive council”.
To further buttress his point, he referred to the case of Gombe state, where the governor “spent months at the initial stage of his administration without forming an executive council” adding that “where there is no executive council anywhere in Nigeria, Permanent Secretaries, Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff, Head of Service and other heads of inter-ministerial departments and of course including the deputy governor and other appointees help the governor run government smoothly”.
Jika, who was speaking via a telephone interview during Channels Television’s flagship breakfast show said the provisions of Section 190 (2) of the constitution “is very clear to us and that is why the governor has gone to court” alleging that “people are bringing ignorance and self-interest marauding and hiding behind good governance and things like that”.
He wondered why a medical team was not constituted to examine the health status of the governor for the past nine to ten months when he was not around insisting that “what we are fighting is to hide behind the health issue and the constitution to do illegalities and unconstitutional things that some people want us to do in Taraba state”.