Is Governor Danbaba Suntai Fit to Govern?



Since the return of Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State on September 17, from his medical check-up, abroad there has been a ding-dong between politicians in the executive arm of government and the legislature over whether he is fit to take over the mantle of leadership in the state from Garba Umar, his deputy 

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Oct. 6, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE return of Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, from the United Kingdom where he went for two months scheduled medical check-up, on Saturday, September 13, is heating up polity in the state. His supporters are saying that the governor is in good health to resume official duties as governor, while the State House of Assembly said a medical panel will first of all examine Governor Suntai before he can resume work.

Darius Ishaku, minister of state for Niger Delta Affairs, who was among the dignitaries that welcomed Governor Suntai, said the governor was in good health and could now resume official duties as governor. “Taraba State will heave a sigh of relief following the coming of the governor. I am excited, he just addressed us and expressed his joy to be back home; l will like to add that his health is a miracle,” he said.

But the State House of Assembly on September 20, constituted a five-man committee to investigate the true health status of Governor Suntai following a directive by the state executive council to do so. The committee is to determine whether the governor is incapacitated or fit to govern. Josiah Sabo Kente, speaker of the State House of Assembly, had said the composition of the committee was in compliance with a directive by the state executive council and section 189 of the 1999 Constitution.


Section 189, subsection (1) one, of the Nigerian Constitution provides that “The Governor or Deputy Governor of a state shall cease to hold office if (a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all members of the executive council of the state, it is declared that the Governor or Deputy Governor is incapable of discharging the functions of the office, and (ii) The declaration in paragraph (a) of the subsection is verified after such medical examination as may be necessary by a medical panel established under subsection 4 of this section in its report to the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

It also said that: “Where the medical panel certifies in its report that in its opinion the Governor or Deputy Governor is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind that has renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the Speaker of the House of Assembly shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the State. The Governor or Deputy Governor shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this section.”

However, the constituted medical panel has been ordered to suspend its activities by a high court sitting in Jalingo, the state capital, on Tuesday, September 23. Justice Silas Haruna issued the order on the grounds that a case relating to the governor’s ability to remain in office is already before the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Garba Umar, acting governor of the state, on September 22, alleged that some cabal in state are planning to impeach him and his boss. According to Umar, the cabal is trying to engineer the impeachment of both of them if the medical panel set up by the State House of Assembly finds that the governor is unfit to resume office. Umar, who spoke on the BBC Hausa Service, said there was no fight between him and the governor but that some associates were trying to create problems because of their own selfish reasons. “Since they are saying my boss and I should be impeached, it means they are not with him. They are lying; they just want to seize power illegally and there is no law that permits doing that in this country. The Constitution must be abided by. And I don’t even know what offence I committed that would warrant my impeachment,” he said.


Umar then denied the rumour that he had plans to replace his boss as governor on a permanent basis. “It is 22 months now that I have been acting as the governor and all along, I have never thought of anything like impeachment. But some people have continued to cause panic. I have been obedient to my boss, yet people will always say he is coming back to take over power. That is why we are trying to ascertain his health condition and then inform the world. Any time he comes and calls me to ask me to give back power to him, I will do that.”

Suntai’s problem started on October 25, 2012, when a plane he piloted crashed in Yola. He was transferred from a hospital in Yola, to the National Hospital, Abuja, on October 26, 2012, and later flown to Germany and United States of America for treatment. He later returned to the country on August 23, 2013, after 10 months of medical treatment overseas following claims by his supporters that he was fit to govern.

But after weeks of political crisis in the state based on claims and counterclaims over his health status, it was revealed that the governor was not healthy enough to live in Nigeria without adequate treatment, or to govern the state.  He was subsequently flown abroad again for treatment, with Umar, his deputy, working in acting capacity.


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