- Signs 2020 budget in FCT It is an impeachable offence
– PDP Government activities in Taraba are suffering, following the prolonged absence of the governor, Darius Ishaku, from the state.
The governor, our correspondent, gathered has been away from the state for about two months.
His last official outing was on December 19, 2019, when he presented the 2020 budget to the state House of Assembly.
Shortly after the presentation, it was learnt that on December 22, 2019, the governor left Jalingo, the state capital and has since not returned.
The governor did not hand over to his deputy, Alhaji Haruna Manu. He also did not transmit a letter to the state Assembly intimating the lawmakers of his absence. Our findings revealed that between December 19, 2019 and now, only two State Executive Council meetings have held.
Also, no new project is ongoing in Jalingo, even as officials of state claim that many contracts were awarded in the absence of the governor, but did not say by whom. Many people in the state including the opposition have expressed concern over the governor’s absence.
It is an impeachable offence – APC Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Taraba State, Barrister Ibrahim El-Sudi, said the absence of Governor Darius Ishaku from the state for 55 days without giving reasons or transferring power to his deputy was an impeachable offence.
“The governor left the state since December 22 last year and has not advanced reasons for his continued absence contrary to section 190 (1) of the constitution, which requires him to transmit a letter to the Speaker whenever he is going on vacation,” El-Sudi said.
He said the absence of the governor without transmitting power to his deputy has led to stagnation in government business. “We are not happy or comfortable that we don’t have a governor now because there are things the deputy cannot do in the absence of the governor.
“Everything is now at a standstill in the state; activities at the ministries have come to a halt’’, he said. El-Sudi also said the continued absence of Governor Ishaku was threatening the take-off of Mambilla hydro power project as according to him, the governor was supposed to meet with critical stakeholders to that effect. While accusing the state assembly of failing in its responsibility to call the governor to order, he said if the lawmakers fail to do the needful, he would take them and Governor Darius Ishaku to court. Some APC chieftains in the state also alleged that the absence of the governor had dampened the morale of workers as ministries were deserted.
Taraba is working – PDP insists But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state insisted that the state is working despite the governor’s absence. The party’s publicity secretary in the state, Mallam Inuwa Bakari, maintained that the allegation that salaries are not being paid to workers as when due was baseless. In a statement, he said the APC in the state was only making an issue out of nothing.
“We wish to inform the uninformed APC leadership in Taraba State that they have picked on a no issue, because the government of Taraba State is intact and working ceaselessly,” he said.
The PDP further explained that State Executive Council meetings were held every Wednesday as expected and that recently Governor Ishaku paid a visit to the World Bank and the Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria in Abuja.
Inuwa Bakari, according to the release said negotiation has reached a good stage to start implementing the N30,000 minimum wage for civil servants and that contracts for roads and other services including the dualisation of Airport to Kpantinapu road in Jalingo were awarded by Governor Ishaku.
Governor operating from Abuja – Spokesman Senior Special Assistant on Media Affairs to the governor, Mr Bala Dan Abu, has confirmed that the governor is operating from Abuja.
‘‘Governor Darius is attending to important state matters in Abuja, while in Jalingo, all government activities are going on’’, he said. Dan Abu confirmed that the governor signed into law the 2020 budget in Abuja and that commissioners and permanent secretaries bring files to Abuja for the governor to sign. He further stated that the governor is within the country and as such there was no need for him to hand over to his deputy.
“The governor is well and has been attending to state matters from Abuja. Commissioners and permanent secretaries bring files from Jalingo for the governor to sign while his deputy has been coming to meet him here regularly. His stay in Abuja is in the interest of Taraba State,” he said.
On when the governor will return to Jalingo,Bala Dan Abu said no date has been fixed. The deputy governor’s spokesman, Lawal Sani Kona, could not be reached for comment as his line was switched off when our correspondent called. However, residents of the state have continued to lament the absence of the governor.
Lawyers differ on gov’s absence Lawyers have expressed divergent views on the matter. Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Austin Alegeh (SAN) said the governor would have not breached any law if his absence is related to a working visit. He said under Sec 190 of Nigerian Constitution1999, the governor can only transmit a letter to the Speaker of the House of Assembly if he is proceeding on leave “even for one day or he is no longer able to discharge the functions of the office. “But if on a working trip or going to woo investors, he must not handover. If he says I am working from Abuja, there is nothing that says he must handover,” he said.
On his part, Paul Erokoro (SAN) said since the state has a capital, which is the seat of government, with Exco Chambers where the executive council meets, the governor ought to govern from there. He added that if there is anything that would take him away for so long, he should notify the State House of Assembly. Also, reacting, Frank Tietie Esq said the absence of the governor without any explanation is an impeachable offence under Section 188 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999.
“It is left for members of state House of Assembly to determine whether the absence from the state has indeed affected the performance of government. “This can be done through a motion supported by 1-3rd majority of the assembly,” he added.
‘Activities moving at snail speed’ A civil servant who does not want his name in print told Daily Trust that the absence of the governor and frequent trips to Abuja by commissioners and permanent secretaries have seriously affected government businesses.
He said an issue, which could be addressed in two to three days under normal circumstances now takes longer period to attend to. An elder and politician in Jalingo, Alhaji Buba Yero Mafindi, while commenting on the issue said the situation in Taraba is ‘pitiable’. He lamented that the governor has not done anything to improve the lives of the people.
“If you go round Jalingo in the night you will pity the residents because everywhere is dark as there is no street light in most areas of the state capital,” he said. He said the silence on the matter by the state House of Assembly is not helping matters.
Another resident, Mallam Ibrahim Haruna, said most civil servants do not report to their places of work on time and that those who go to office close early because most of their departmental heads including commissioners always travel to Abuja to take files to the governor.