Suntai And The Constitutional Question

Posted: January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Barr Danlami Alhaji Wushishi

As we prepare for the constitutional amendment that will affect some salient issues in our polity like State of Origin, State Police, Revenue Sharing etc the Nation is faced with another constitutional Question i.e. “How many days does the absence of a Governor in Office disqualifies him from Office?”

I have been asked this question at different fora and my response to virtually all the questions is that “the 1999 Constitution is undergoing an amendment so let’s keep our fingers crossed”. I chose that answer to avoid the popular accusation labeled on Lawyers that “we are liars” and remain the architect of our Nation’s woes.

However, as a Lawyer, I deem it appropriate to scribble some points in a bid to give a more pragmatic answer to what the fate of the ailing Governors Suntai, Chime, Imoke and Wada should be. All these Governors are currently absent from office due to one form of illness or the other. We shouldn’t pronounce them incapacitated until all avenues have been explored in accordance with the Constitution.

In 2009,the Nation also witnessed the constitutional debate over the state of health of Late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and succession by President Goodluck Jonathan .The situation was later resolved by the Senate with its unprecedented “Doctrine of necessity” when it became apparent that having access to Yar’adua was elusive.

Now, history is repeating itself in Taraba State following the unfortunate air mishap that involved Governor Danbaba Danfulani

Suntai in October 2012. For the past few weeks, he has been in a German hospital where he is receiving treatment. Sequel to this, some people opined that Suntai’s continued absence for 90days will cost him the exalted seat. An unconstitutional conclusion!

I therefore flipped through the 1999 constitution wherein I found some plausible answers to the constitutional question posed over Suntai`s absence from office. Presently, the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Garba Umar serves as the acting Governor of Taraba State. I am not aware of any provision in our constitution that stipulates the number of days he will act, but we must avoid the danger of being an Acting Governor for the remaining part of the tenure of their mandate. However, Section 191(1) provides that;

“The Deputy Governor of a State shall hold the office of Governor of the State if the office of Governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal of the Governor from office for any other reason in accordance with section 188 or 189 of this constitution”

Now, Governor Suntai is on admission, yet he remain the Governor of Taraba State. He may only cease to be the Governor after a resolution passed by two third majority of all the members of the Executive Council of the State Governor Suntai is incapable of discharging the functions of his office and a declaration in accordance with Section 189 (1) (a) is verified after such medical examination as may be necessary by a medical panel established for that purpose and report forwarded to the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

Furthermore, when the medical panel certify that the Governor/Deputy Governor is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice to that effect shall be published in the official gazette of the government of the state and the Governor/Deputy Governor shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report.

Infact the composition of the medical panel shall comprise of 5 eminent medical practitioners including the personal physician of the person concerned. It is their report that will form the basis of the notice to be published in the official gazette and the Governor shall cease to hold office from the date of the publication.

These steps are what should be followed in an ideal situation hence the 1999 Constitution provides for solution to such logjam. Just like the inability of a Governor to transmit his notice of vacation to the House of Assembly, he will be given a grace of 21 days; thereafter the House can adopt a resolution of `Doctrine of Necessity` to avoid a vacuum being created.

According to reports from Taraba State, the ever quiet State is under sober silence over the traumatic experience of the Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai. Some analysts opined that the State is now divided between those that want Gov Suntai removed from office following the release of some photographs showing the ailing Gov Suntai and the manner he posed with his new twins depicting all is not well which the analyst interpreted as corroborating the information that he suffers from memory loss. While others maintained that he`s fast recuperating and will soon resume duty. A reminiscence of Yaraduagate!

I call on people of Taraba state to thread the path of the Constitution which in very plain language has provided for solution to this problem. Suntai is alive, yes! Suntai remain Gov of Taraba state until declared otherwise, yes!

The Acting Governor has been operating with unfettered powers to move the state forward, yes! The question now is `whether he has the mental ability to discern what is happening in his state and whether he will endorse such thing if he has the ability to avoid the impasse. Right now, the State seems to be faced with political uncertainty over this succession bid.

The people of Taraba should therefore eschew religious sentiment, tribal bigotry and political bias and allow the amicable resolution of this matter. It is quite unfortunate that the State has found itself in this quagmire; the solution is in the Constitution not in the wishes of a cabal or an individual. Taraba State and indeed Nigeria must move forward! I pray for Taraba!

 

 

Barr Danlami Alhaji Wushishi is a Minna based legal practitioner. He can be reached through danwushishi@yahoo.com

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Comments
  1. Kalajanga adamu says:

    We do plan this or that but Allah is the best Planner of all.

  2. ALH MUSA MUHD TSOKEN says:

    Sentiment always overide our nationalistic aspiration.Ipray may God grant us peace,unity &progres of ourdear state,amen.

  3. Mooxy says:

    This article doesn’t make sense. You’ve tried your best to manipulate the idea you are passing, but it is still clear that this piece is pessimistic.

  4. Abdullah O S says:

    This article has clearly shown us,that our country have constitution n policy laid on n we shall learn to respect that not our personal feeling nor interest.God so much love our dear country.Danbaba is just a human not God.we wish him quick recovery.

  5. Korie says:

    Alhamdullahi, God knows and preserves us for a reason… Even for the sake of the twins he is speared from death. Barka Kulu.

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