Taraba crisis: Commissioners shun Acting Governor as Majority Leader lambasts Assembly Speaker

Garba Umar

Umar directed state’s bankers to honour only cheques signed by verified signatures.

The political crisis in Taraba State continued on Friday as members of the state cabinet, re-instated by the Acting Governor, Garba Umar, refused to resume work.

Mr. Umar had on Thursday asked the commissioners to continue in office and ignore a statement read by an aide to ailing governor, Danbaba Suntai, announcing the dissolution of the State Executive Council.

The council members were appointed by Mr. Suntai before his accident last year.

However, apparently doubting the loyalty of some of the commissioners, Mr. Suntai’s handlers promptly made the governor dissolve the cabinet upon his return from the United States where he spent 10 months receiving treatment.

In a series of dramatic fast-paced event that have become regular in Taraba in the last one week, the ailing governor’s spokesman, Silvanus Giwa, announced the dissolution of the cabinet on Wednesday, supposedly on the governor’s instructions.

Emboldened by the position of the state parliament that Mr. Suntai was unfit to rule and that his deputy should continue as Acting Governor, Mr. Umar announced that the state executive council was still in place.

Commissioners give reasons

Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES in Jalingo, however, revealed that members of the State Executive Council did not return to their offices as directed by Mr. Umar.

When asked why he did not heed Mr. Umar’s statement, the Commissioner of Finance, Iliya Wanabiya, replied, “Ask me that question on Monday; I will only be able to answer that question on Monday.”

Also, Timothy Kataps, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice who after Mr. Suntai’s dissolution of the executive was appointed the Secretary to the State Government, told PREMIUM TIMES that he could not return to the post of a commissioner.

“I cannot do that. I was appointed by the governor; I cannot reprobate and approbate. I have sworn an oath of office before the governor and he has not told me he has reversed that decision. In any case, I am the only SSG who swore to an oath of office, I remain the SSG,” Mr. Katap said.

A similar view was expressed by the Commissioner for Information, Emmanuel Bello.

“I am not resuming. The governor has dissolved his cabinet and that remains the case. We have all been dissolved,” Mr. Bello said.

PREMIUM TIMES could not get the reaction of some other commissioners like that of Industries, Augustine Kata-Kata, and that of Environment, Kwetaka Danfulani, as calls made to their phones were unanswered.

Taraba’s funds

Meanwhile, Mr. Umar has also directed the state’s bankers to respect only cheques verified as originating from the governor or himself, amid controversy over who takes charge of the state.

The acting governor’s statement comes amidst fears that Mr. Suntai’s handlers could seize on the confusion and his apparently frail state to loot the state of funds.

Mr. Umar acted for the governor while the latter was away on medical trip for 10 months. Lawmakers have asked him to continue as the acting governor but Mr. Suntai’s supporters insist the ailing governor remains in charge.

A statement by Mr. Umar’s spokesperson, Kefas Sule, late on Thursday said, “The bankers of the Taraba State Government are reminded to note that all financial instruments relating to the State Government’s accounts should be honoured only if they are in tandem with the provisions of the law, in which case, it must contain either verifiable signature of the Executive Governor of Taraba State, his Excellency Governor Danbaba Suntai or verifiable signature of the Acting Governor of Taraba State, his excellency Alhaji Garba Umar, Acting for the Executive Governor.”

The statement also called on the people of the state to disregard Wednesday’s announcement of the dissolution of the State Executive Council and the appointment of a new SSG as well as Chief of Staff.

“The announcement is a mere attempt by a cabal to hijack the machinery of governance in the state and not a directive that was given by the Executive Governor, his Excellency Danbaba Suntai,” it said.

Speaker’s actions illegal

Meanwhile, a member of the Taraba State House of Assembly, Joseph Kunini, has disassociated himself from the position of majority of the lawmakers and the Speaker, Haruna Tsokwa, directing Mr. Umar to continue acting as governor.

Mr. Kunini, the majority leader of the 24-member Assembly, said the position taken by the speaker and 15 other members of the assembly, as contained in a statement, ‘does not have any force of law.’

“It’s either Mr. Speaker Haruna Tsokwa is completely ignorant of the provisions,” of the Nigerian constitution or “he is been sponsored by desperate power seekers and mischief makers,” the lawmaker said.

The lawmaker, who is part of a camp of 8 lawmakers in support of Mr. Suntai’s return and actions, said since Mr. Suntai has transmitted a letter to the speaker of his return, he had since automatically resumed office as governor.

The Speaker and the majority of the lawmakers had doubted the authenticity of the letter and after meeting with the governor concluded that he was not yet fit to lead the state. They advised him to return to the U.S. to continue his recuperation.

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