2 January 2013

Nigeria: Gov Chime's Absence Stirs Constitutional Debate in Enugu

The Enugu Development Association (EDA) will, after the New Year celebration, hold a meeting with the state's acting governor Sunday Onyebuchi over the whereabouts of Governor Sullivan Chime, LEADERSHIP can now authoritatively report.

This is just as the Kogi State Governor Idris Wada has been discharged from hospital in Abuja where he was being treated for a fractured thigh following an accident last Friday.

President of the EDA, Barrister Enechi Onyia, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told LEADERSHIP in a telephone interview in Enugu yesterday that nobody had informed the association about the whereabouts of Governor Chime since he left the shores of the country in September 2012.

Some newspapers had reported that Chime was undergoing medical treatment abroad, with some even reporting that he had passed on, a claim the state government refuted.

But Barrister Onyia said that, as elders of the state, it would be 'irresponsible' on their part to respond to those reports without hearing from the acting governor.

"Chime is our son, and if he is sick, and taken out of the country for medical treatment, we ought to be told as elders of the state," said Onyia.

According to him, the IDA will take a position on calls from several quarters to declare Governor Chime incapable of performing his constitutional functions after meeting with the acting governor.

But Emeka Njoku, an Enugu-based legal practitioner, dismissed calls on the state executive council to declare the absent governor incapable of performing his functions as provided for in section 189(1)of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), as baseless, adding that the presence of an acting governor made such calls untenable.

He said that such calls could be meaningful if after the expiration of six months the governor had not returned to his seat.

Nevertheless, a former member of the Enugu State Assembly, Barrister Nwabueze Ugwu, told LEADERSHIP in a telephone interview that any citizen of the state could go to court to compel the state executive council to declare the governor incapable of performing his functions, since he had been away from office for more than three months.

He also said the state legislature could commence impeachment processes against the governor on the basis of his long absence from office.

Officials of the Enugu State government had in the last three months claimed that Governor Chime was enjoying his accumulated leave, and would return soon to resume duties.

The chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Information, Hon. Ukuta John Kelvin, refused to pick his telephone when LEADERSHIP called him several times to get the position of the legislature on the governor's long absence from duty, and insinuations about his falling health.

After a five-day stay in the hospital, Kogi State Governor Idris Wada was yesterday discharged from the Cedarcrest Hospital, Abuja, where he had been receiving treatment for a broken thigh. He has been taken to a private location in Abuja.

The chief medical director of the hospital, who was also in charge of his treatment, Dr. Felix Ogedengbe, certified Wada fit, saying that he could recuperate fully at home for his thigh to heal permanently.

The doctor had, however, disclosed to LEADERSHIP that the kind of treatment given the governor was for him to move around but that the fracture would heal between six weeks and eight weeks.

Governor Wada was said to have left the hospital around 9am yesterday in the company of his aides, and amidst tight security.

The special adviser to the governor on media, Mr. Jacob Edi, confirmed the story yesterday.

Edu said Wada walked from the hospital bed to the car and alighted without support, adding that the doctor advised him to rest at home for speedy recovery.

The governor, who had received visits from many high profile Nigerians, including President Goodluck Jonathan, was brought to the hospital at about 8pm on Friday night after being stabilized at the Specialist Hospital, Kogi, where he was taken to immediately after the accident.

Ogedengbe had earlier denied media reports at a press briefing at the hospital on Saturday that the governor was to be flown abroad.

"He would not be taken abroad for treatment because he has confidence in our capacity to manage him. There is no immediate need to fly him abroad," he had said.

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