In a bid to stall the planned return of the ailing governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai, the State Executive Council has directed the House of Assembly to constitute a medical panel to examine the state of health of the governor.
The move, according to PREMIUM TIMES sources, is aimed at declaring the governor incapacitated and ultimately impeach him.
The Council, it was learnt met on Wednesday for five hours during which it took the decision to communicate the Speaker of the House asking him to name the medical panel.
Members of the Council however refused to brief the media on the outcome of the meeting, which began at 11a.m and ended 5pm.
In obeying such directive, Section 189 of the Constitution requires the Speaker to name a medical panel comprising five medical practitioners in Nigeria, one of whom shall be the personal physician of the holder of the office.
The remaining four, in the opinion of the Speaker, would have attained a high degree of eminence in the field of medicine relative to the nature of the examination to be conducted.
Subsection 1) states that “The Governor of 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.
(2) “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 as 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
(3) “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.”
Mr. Danbaba, who was involved in an air mishap in October 2012, was first flown to the United States and Germany for medical attention, but was brought back in controversial circumstance in August last year.
However, his state of fitness became a subject of contention thereby leading to the confirmation of his deputy, Garba Umar, as acting governor.
He was flown back abroad a few months ago after his condition deteriorated.
Some of his political associates are reportedly involved in the fresh plan to return him this week.
It was gathered that the move is aimed at frustrating any plan by Mr. Umar to be nominated as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the February 2015 poll.
Mr. Suntai’s tenure will expire in May next year having been first elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.
Reacting to the decision of the State Executive Council, a group, Tarabans United for Suntai, said it was illegal because the issue of the governor’s health is before competent courts of law.
The group, in a statement on Wednesday signed by its coordinator, Ezekiel Gambo, said, “This is an illegal act considering that both the EXCO and even the issue of the governor’s health are all in competent courts of law. It is therefore subjudice to discuss or expedite action on such matter. We hope this time around, the Taraba State House of Assembly will have the courage to stand by the RULE OF LAW, and not be hoodwinked into another round of illegality.”
The group insisted that Mr. Suntai’s health had improved considerably.
It added, “We are using this medium to disprove reports emanating from Garba Umar the Deputy Governor’s camp that the governor is now fully incapacitated.
“Fillers from there has it that the illegal EXCO has even written the Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly, Hon. Josiah Kente directing him to set up a medical panel with the view of declaring the governor incapacitated. This is a DESPERATE move and one that is typical of Umar.
“Certain things are very clear: One, the Taraba State Government has been paying the medical bills of Governor Suntai. At what point then did his benefactor become incapacitated? Do you threat an incapacitated person?
“Secondly, is this not a confirmation of all that we have been saying all along; that Umar has all this while been plotting Suntai’s ouster? And that he sacked Suntai’s cabinet to have one that would do his biddings?
“Who says Garba Umar has not been lying all the while by telling the public that he was protecting the interest of his ‘boss’ from some cabals?”
But the media aide to the acting governor, Aaron Artimas, had last week said those plotting the return of Mr. Suntai were doing so for their interest in power rather than for his health.
A group, Taraba Peoples Assembly, had also warned, in a statement signed by its coordinator, Martin Andekin, against the governor’s hasty return, saying it would again lead to further deterioration of his health.