Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, has signed into law a bill that prescribes death sentence and life imprisonment for kidnappers and abduction offenders in the state.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan Abu.
The statement added that the bill which was sponsored by Speaker, Taraba State House of Assembly, Peter Abel Diah, was passed with the support of the members of the Assembly.
The governor’s assent to the bill follows the amendment of the Kidnapping and Abduction Prohibition Act 2010 by the Taraba State House of Assembly which introduces the death penalty and life imprisonment for offenders.
According to the Speaker, the bill will ensure the protection of Taraba residents against kidnapping.
“Under the new law, anybody found guilty of abduction or kidnapping in the state will pay the supreme price for it.
“The law is a product of government’s concern about insecurity in the state, particularly, kidnapping for money which is rampant in the state and other parts of the country,” the statement read in part.
The new bill prescribes punishment for violators as; any person who threatened to kill, maim, injure or cause panic in order to compel another person, corporate or government organisation to do or refrain from doing any act committed an offence and is liable on conviction to 20 years without an option of fine.
It also said that any person who threatens to kidnap another person by means of phone calls, text messages or any electronic device shall be convicted to 20 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
And any person who conceals any information or has knowledge as to the existence of a kidnap group or is aware of the planning and execution of a kidnap or abduction without informing relevant security agencies commits and offence and shall be convicted to 20 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
The governor’s assent to the bill comes on the heels of rising spate of kidnapping in Taraba State.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has constituted four special committees in preparation of its National Convention and the overall rebuilding and repositioning of the party.
The establishment of the committees is in line with the decision of the National Executive Committee of the party and the National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff.
A statement by the party’s spokesman, Olisa Metuh, the Committees would be inaugurated on Tuesday April 5. They are the National Convention Committee, Reconciliation Committee, Zoning Committee and the Finance Committee.
The National Convention Committee has Rivers State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, as Chairman, Taraba State Governor, Mr Dairus Ishiaku, as Deputy Chairman and the Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr Dave Umahi as Secretary.
Similarly, the Reconciliation Committee has Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, as Chairman and Senator Ibrahim Mantu as Deputy Chairman while the Finance Committee has Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, as Chairman and Senator Godswill Akpabio as Deputy Chairman.
The Zoning Committee has Akwa-Ibom State Governor Emmanuel Udom as Chairman and Mr. Kelechi Igwe as Secretary.
The committees will be inaugurated by the National Chairman of the party in a ceremony that will hold at the national secretariat of the party.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, on Saturday said that his administration is being confronted with three major challenges of a huge debt profile, empty treasury and insecurity, since inauguration on May 29.
Governor Ishaku told reporters that he inherited an empty treasury and a huge debt of over 20 Billion Naira from the former administration.
At a send-forth ceremony organised in honour of the Arch Bishop of Kaduna, Anglican Diocese, Most Reverend Josiah Idowu Fearon, who was recently appointed the Secretary General of World Anglican Communion in Canterbury, England, Governor Ishaku explained that his administration was owing workers only one month salary due to lack of fund.
He further stated that the government had resorted to borrowing money from banks in order to settle workers salaries and execute some projects since its inauguration.
Governor Ishaku, however, assured the residents of the state that his administration would do everything possible to ensure that workers salaries were paid consistently, that projects were execute and that the insecurity in some parts of the state was addressed, in spite of the poor state of its economy.
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.
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.”
A legal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye has said that it is not impossible for traitors to wish the Taraba state governor, Danbaba Suntai dead so as to have their turn at the state treasury.
He said this during an interview with Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Shoyele on Law Weekly, adding that “it’s apparent that Governor Suntai, from what we’ve seen, is not fit to resume the functions of the office of Governor” as evidenced by his inability to alight from the plane without help.
Although the governor’s close aides have insisted that Suntai is healthy, “we don’t need a soothsayer to tell us that he is not fit” he said.
He maintained that a medical examination is the appropriate determinant of one’s health as “you may be outwardly fit but the true determinant of the state of your health is a medical examination”.
Although he advised that the governor recuperate properly, he warned that there could be “opportunistic interventions” in the situation as traitors would want to switch allegiance or even “wish him dead”.
However, he cautioned that “we have to focus on the rule of law.”
The Nigerian Medical Association has offered to constitute a board to ascertain the true health status of the Taraba state governor, Danbaba Suntai.
After its national executive council meeting in Abuja, the NMA president, Mr Osahon Onabulele said the proposed board would make available experts to put an end to the lingering political crisis in the state.
The NMA also urged the National Assembly to urgently establish the office of the surgeon-general of Nigeria, who can independently assess the medical fitness of public and political office holders.
The association gave the federal government a 21-day ultimatum with effect from Monday, the 2nd of September 2013, to address the challenges surrounding the nation’s health sector, including the non-payment of wages to doctors and health workers.
Taraba State Governor,Dambaba Suntai has returned to Nigeria after 10 months of absence.
The aircraft is reported to have taken off from the Republic airport in Long Island and made a stop-over at an unknown destination before it touched down in Nigeria.
The ailing governor who is still recuperating was involved in a plane crash near Yola State, a plane which he piloted according to report, arrived abode a chartered aircraft at about 1pm Nigerian time.
The governor was guided out of the chartered aircraft at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja and was received by friends and political associates, who had come to welcome him
He acknowledged greetings from friends and associates after which he was driven off by a waiting vehicle.
Amongst those at the airport to receive the governor is the former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana who expressed gratitude to God for the safe return of the governor.
Other associates said the return of the governor will put an end to many of the rumours surrounding his absence following the plane crash which left the governor badly wounded.
On the 25th of October 2012, governor Suntai’s plane which he was piloting crashed around Yola state with three of his aides with him.
According to the People of Namtari village; a suburb of Yola the capital of Adamawa state, who were the first eye witnesses to arrive at the scene of the plane crash said the plane was coming normally like any other aircraft, suddenly the sound changed, and that was followed by an immediate U-turn giving all signs that the plane was going to crash, as it eventually did in a very familiar farm behind the NNPC depot.
As they heard the sound of the crash, they picked their touch lights as it was already getting dark and they ran to the scene of the crash.
On arrival, one of the occupants was already out of the aircraft and crying for help, asking them to hasten up the rescue because three others including the Taraba state Governor were still inside the plane, for fear of possible fire outbreak.
They however confirmed that the governor was the last to be rescued because it took them time to locate his where about as he was equally trapped under the now wrecked plane and being held down by the seat belt.
The Coordinator of the Concerned Citizens of Taraba; Mohammed Bello Mustapha has debunked claims by the commissioners sacked by the deputy governor who now is the acting governor of the state over the mismanagement of the flood disaster fund given to Taraba state by federal government earlier in the year that they were sacked unjustly as the said flood disaster fund was disbursed judiciously.
Mustapha who was a guest on our morning show ‘Sunrise Daily’ said the commissioners couldn’t come up with a defence when called upon to come and explain how the fund was used.
“They were not wrongly sacked because they were given the opportunity to defend themselves, their right to fair hearing was not trampled upon, they were given the chance, they were invited to make presentation by the last Taraba state House of Assembly before the present leadership
They were all there and they made their presentations, and when the new administration came on board (the new speaker), the issue was taken from where the preceding leadership stopped, so its not a new thing”
Mustapha said the sacked commissioners should have some shame, labelling them as ‘Heartless’ because they were placed in charge of a fund meant to alleviate the sufferings of the flood victims of Taraba state but unfortunately, they have showed that they do not have the interest of the people of Taraba at heart.
The flood disaster fund that was disbursed to some states came about when some states in the federation suffered so much loss due to natural disaster that destroyed homes, farms and several other properties runing into millions belonging individuals.
And in response, the federal government decided to compensate these states and decided to release funds to help victims of the flood. The states were categorised into A,B and C depending on the level of damage suffered.
Taraba state whose fund is now creating a buzz, was placed under category A, receiving N400m flood disastr fund from the federal government.
More reactions have continued to trail the continued absence of Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State who is undergoing treatment in a German hospital following his involvement in an air crash on the 24th of October, 2012 in Yola, Adamawa State.
Answering questions from journalists in Abuja, a former deputy governor of the state; Senator Saleh Danboyi said the people of the state need to know the true state of health of the governor without pictures allegedly stage-managing the governor’s health condition.
Senator Danboyi who advocated the need for the Acting Governor to be made the substantive governor if Governor Suntai is incapacitated says the recent release of some pictures showing the governor and his wife with their twins in Germany cannot be said to mean that the governor is actually responding to treatment.