In line with the provisions of section 190 sub-section 2 of the 1999 constitution (as amended), the Taraba State House of Assembly Wednesday mandated the Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Garba Umar, to act as governor pending the return of the Governor, Danbaba Suntai.
The pronouncement finally laid to rest the controversy occasioned by the absence of Suntai who is currently undergoing treatment in a German hospital following injuries he sustained in a plane crash on Thursday, October 25.
Sub-section 2 of the constitution read: "In the event that the Governor is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mention in sub-section (1) of this section within 21 days, the House of Assembly shall, by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of the House, mandate the Deputy Governor to perform the functions of the office of the Governor as Acting Governor, until the Governor transmits a letter to the Speaker that he his now available to resume his functions as Governor."
In a motion moved by the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Charles Maijankai, under Matter of Urgent Public Importance and seconded by the only female member of the House, Hon. Rashidat Abdullahi, the House noted that the need to comply with the provisions of section 190 subsection 2 become necessary in view of the governor's absence from the state for 21 days.
Deliberating on the motion which was supported by 18 out of 24 members of the House, Maijankai stated that having waited patiently for 21 days, the House, as a law abiding institution, is left with no option than to invoke section 190 subsection 2 of the constitution to allow the deputy governor to act as governor pending the return of the governor.
Speaking in support of the motion, Deputy Speaker, Hon. Abel Peter Diah, said the House, as an institution saddled with the responsibilities of making laws, must be seen as a respecter of the law. He added that through the governor and his three aides are responding to treatment, there was the need to adhere to constitutional provision of mandating the deputy governor to act as governor at the expiration of 21 days.
According to him, "Taraba State House of Assembly is an institution saddled by the constitution of the country to make law, hence; there is the need to see us as a people who respect the law. The governor, as a complete gentleman and a respecter of law, always transmit power to his former deputy whenever he's going on leave therefore, there shouldn't be any controversy over this matter."
Also speaking, House Committee Chairman on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mark Useni, noted that the resolution would go a long way to convince the people of the state and Nigerians in general that the Assembly believes in the rule of law and constitutionalism.
Upon the passage of the resolution, the Speaker, Istifanus Haruna Gbana, directed the Clerk of the House to as a matter of urgency to communicate the resolution of the House to the deputy governor so as to assume governorship of the state in acting capacity.
In his words, "We have acted within the purview of the constitution. What we are expected to do is the resolution of the House. We cannot swear him in. I enjoin journalists to disseminate accurate information to the public; we can do well to enlighten the people so that we don't give wrong impression to the public."
The Speaker however expressed the readiness of the entire members of the House to give the acting governor all the support he needed to succeed and discharge the responsibilities vested on him.
Meanwhile, Umar has commended the high sense of legislative duty exhibited by the members of the Assembly just as he declared that the mandate given to him by the House as acting governor is purely for the exercise of the powers of the constitution of Nigeria and the democratic process.
Addressing the people of the state in a state broadcast shortly after he assumed duty, Umar expressed gratitude to God for sparing the life of the governor and his aides, adding that he would continue from where he stopped by ensuring justice and fairness.
"May I remind us that the mandate given to me by the state Assembly today as acting governor is purely for the exercise of the powers of the Constitution of Nigeria and the democratic process. I specially acknowledge the high sense of legislative duty exhibited by members of the House of Assembly. Our security operatives deserve to be commended for maintaining peace and security. The media has also played no less an important role", he stated.
Expressing the commitment of the government to the maintenance of law and order, the acting governor declared that his commitment remains strong and unshakable stressing that the law banning the use of motorcycles of any kind within Jalingo is still in force warning that anybody caught flouting the law would face the full wrath of the law.
Appealing to the people of the state for their loyalty, patience and hard work, Umar noted that the task of leadership cannot be easy, smooth and complete without the loyalty of the followership just as he pleaded for their support to enable him move the state forward.