Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Suntai Heads to Court as PDP Affirms Umar Acting Governor

The Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, Tuesday instituted a law suit against the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Haruna Tsokwa, and members of the assembly challenging their refusal to allow him resume duty as governor.

The law suit by the governor coincided with the intervention of the Senator Hope Uzodinma-led Committee and the unanimous agreement reached by the committee and stakeholders in the state that the acting Governor of Taraba, Alhaji Garba Umar, should continue to run the state until Suntai is strong enough to resume duties.

Suntai had on August 26 transmitted a letter to the speaker notifying him of his return after a 10-month absence and his readiness to take over his office as governor and the responsibilities thereof.
But the speaker had rejected the governor’s request on the premise that it had to be deliberated upon by the assembly before a decision could be reached on it.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the speaker and assembly, Suntai Tuesday approached the High Court in the state through Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), who filed the originating summons seeking redress.

In a copy of the originating summons obtained at the lawyer’s chambers in Abuja, the governor argued that Suntai’s letter notifying the speaker and the assembly of his return and intention to take over was not subject to the exercise of their discretion to accept or reject it, as it was “mandatory” for them to do so.

Izinyon, on behalf of his client, is, therefore, seeking a declaration by the court that the letter transmitted by Suntai was “absolute, mandatorily obeisant, immutable and cannot be debated or contradicted by any means whatsoever as the 1st and 2nd Defendants lack any discretion in the circumstance and that upon transmission of the said letter, the Plaintiff has automatically assumed his powers and responsibilities as Governor of Taraba State.”

He also wants the court to declare the press statement issued by the speaker and other lawmakers directing Umar to continue as acting governor, “null and void ultra vires and constitutionally void and of no effect whatsoever.”

Accordingly, he is seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the speaker and assembly from “debating, interfering with, doing anything in connection with or in relation to the letter transmitted by the Plaintiff to the 1st Defendant pursuant to Section 190(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”

The law suit, notwithstanding, the crisis over who is in charge in Taraba State appeared to have been finally laid to rest yesterday, after all stakeholders in the state unanimously agreed that Umar should continue to run the state until Suntai was ready to take over the reins of state.

The decision was reached at the end of the peace meeting brokered by the Uzodima-led committee set up by the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to find a lasting solution to the political crisis in the state.
Other members of the committee are Alhaji Buhari Bala, Alhaji Kabir Shittu Mohammed, Senator Abubakar Umar Gada, Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Political Matters, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak; Prof. Richard King and Mrs. Bolajoko Doherty.

Briefing the journalists after the meeting, which had in attendance the wife of the governor, Hauwa Suntai, the acting governor, Senators Emmanuel Bwacha and Abubakar Tutare, Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ishiaka Bawa, Hon. Jerry Manwe, Hon. Aminu Male, Hon. Ibrahim Elsudi, members of the assembly led by Tsokwa and other PDP stakeholders in the state, Uzodima said the resolution was agreeable to all the parties. Stressing that there was no disagreement between Suntai and the acting governor, Uzodima said: “We don’t have a crisis in Taraba. The state governor, Danbaba Suntai, is relatively very healthy and there is no disagreement between him and his deputy who is now the acting governor.

“He’s (Suntai) also in support of the fact that the acting governor should continue to act and that he should always consult him and clear with him on major issues pending when he’s ready to fully take over the governance of the state and this is agreeable to all parties.
“So, Taraba State is now one united, strong government and PDP is still in control of this government.”

Corroborating Uzodima, Umar, who expressed gratitude to President Jonathan and the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, for making it possible for the committee to come and resolve the crisis, said it had been agreed that he should continue piloting the affairs of the state until Suntai was fully fit to resume duties. He said: “Today, let me assure you that we have been able to tell ourselves the truth, we have been able to resolve our differences and today, I am assuring you that Taraba State is one.

“Let me also add that all of us here, we‘re witnesses to the fact that few days ago, there were insinuations about Taraba State, and Taraba became a household name in this country. But today, we thank God that all our differences have been resolved and we are one and it was agreed that I will pilot the affairs of the state until my principal is able to come back and resume duties as our governor.

“And in doing that also, there must be consultation between me and my boss in carrying out my duties as acting governor of the state.” When asked whether the issue of the dissolution of the State Executive Council (SEC) as well as the appointments of a Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Chief of Staff had also been resolved, Umar maintained that all the contending issues had been fully resolved.

“As I said earlier, all issues have been resolved and when I say the issues have been resolved including the issue of the executive council, there is nothing to worry about.”
He explained that he was in consultation with his boss on the reconstitution of the exco and it would be announced as soon as he has concluded consultations.

Addressing stakeholders before the commencement of the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, the committee, which arrived Jalingo at 11.55 a.m. in a chartered aircraft, said they were in the state to interact with the critical stakeholders with a view to identifying the causes of the crisis and properly locating them where they’re supposed to be. In the meantime, a political pressure group, Taraba Justice Forum, yesterday dismissed the accusation leveled against the acting governor by Bwacha of trying to grab power, describing the statement as false and a misrepresentation of reality.

In a statement signed by its General Secretary, Mr. John Ambulus, the forum said: “With our experience, since we launched this struggle for justice early this year, we can affirm that Bwacha, and not the acting governor, is the one that is power thirsty.” The group accused Bwacha of nursing governorship ambitions, “which he believes may not materialise except a sick governor is foisted on the people of Taraba State.

“Bwacha was elected to serve in the Senate and he should face his mandate and allow the governor or his aides speak on executive issues in the state.”

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