The assembly, in a statement by its Speaker, Haruna Tsokwa, and 15 other members, also reaffirmed Alhaji Garba Umar as the acting governor of the state.
The lawmakers claimed that before Wednesday, all their efforts to meet with the recuperating governor, who arrived in Jalingo on Sunday from the US, were rebuffed by people close to him.
They pointed out that from the manner the governor spoke when they finally met with him on Wednesday, they doubted that he authored the letter in which he informed them of his return and desire to resume work.
According to the lawmakers, their advice to the governor and the position on who was in charge of governance in the state, were in the interest of the people.
“Be that as it may, we the undersigned members of the state assembly have unanimously resolved in our meeting that the deputy governor, upon whom power was earlier transmitted by the State House of Assembly, still remains the Acting Governor of Taraba State and he will continue to act in that regard until such a time the governor is capable of administering the state,” they added in the statement
“The leadership of the assembly made several efforts to see the governor since his arrival, but till Wednesday, they were not allowed access to him. The ailing governor spoke in a manner that brought more doubt to his letter purportedly transmitted to the speaker,”the lawmakers said.
The other legislators that signed the statement are Tsokwa’s deputy, Tanko Maikarfi; Chief Whip, Mohammed Gwampo; and the Deputy Majority Leader, Josiah Kente.
Others are the Deputy Chief Whip, Mohammed Umar; the Minority Leader, Ibrahim Imam; the Minority Whip, Yahya AbdulRahman; Iratsi Daki, Rashida Abdullahi, Aminu Umar, Emmanuel Dame, John Bonzena, Dr Abubakar Jugulde, Hamman Abdullahi, Abdulkarim Mohammed and Edward Baraya.
But an aide to Suntai and former Commissioner for Information in the state, Emmanuel Bello, dismissed the claim by the legislators that the governor was unfit to continue in office.
He told an online news portal, on the telephone that the lawmakers who signed the statement did so according to “the figment of their imagination”.
Bello, who said he still speaks for Suntai, described the action of the lawmakers as “null and void,” saying “they do not have the constitutional power to determine whether somebody is sick.”
He said it was only “medical experts that have the power to determine the state of health of a person.”
“What yardsticks and parameters did they use to say the governor is not fit? These people visited the governor yesterday (Wednesday) and he recognised all of them by their faces and names; it is totally unfair of them to turn around and say he is unfit to rule,” he added.
Bello, who claimed that Suntai could “read, write and sign documents;” asked, “What is the standard of who a governor should be?”
“These people are not fair to his Excellency, and they are wicked. Taraba people are not with them, and even the Majority Leader of the House has disassociated himself from them. What they are doing is unconstitutional and a violation of Nigerian laws,” he said.
Bello also stated that as long as the lawmakers did not subject the governor to medical checks, they had no reason to state that he was unfit for office.
“Have they subjected the governor to medical check? Can they give us a medical report? As far as the people of Taraba are concerned, the governor is not sick; he addressed them yesterday(Wednesday) and they are satisfied with his state of health,” he said.
Umar, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Kefas Sule insisted that he remained the acting governor of the state.
He described the dissolution of the state Executive Council as “a mere attempt by a cabal to hijack the machinery of government in the state and not a directive given by Governor Danbaba Suntai.”
Umar therefore advised members of the public to ignore the sack of the Chief of Staff, the Secretary to the State Government, commissioners and special advisers.
The statement reads , “His Excellency, the acting governor wishes to remind Tarabans that a moment like this calls for greater restraint and vigilance. To this end, the bankers of the Taraba State Government are reminded to note that all financial instruments relating to the state government’s account should be honored only if they are in tandem with the provisions of the law, in which case, must contain:
• A veritable signature of the executive governor of Taraba State, His Excellency, Governor Danbaba Suntai, or
• A veritable signature of the acting governor of Taraba State, His Excellency, Alhaji Umar, acting for the executive governor.
“Members of the public should ignore yesterday’s (Wednesday) announcement of the purported dissolution of the state executive council and the appointment of a new SSG as well as CoS.”
But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Sebastine Hon, also faulted the lawmakers and asked Suntai to go about his lawful business of governing the state.
Hon, a specialist in constitutional law, argued that the assembly had by its action shown the level of ignorance of its leadership.
He asked, “Under what law, substantive and procedural, did the assembly bring out the so-called statement? It is settled law that the business of the legislature is done through resolutions and lawmaking and not through press statements.
“And even then, legislative business can only be lawfully done during plenary on the floor of the House and not in private or other premises.
Another lawyer, Mr Kayode Ajulo, called on the Speaker of the state assembly to institute a five-man medical team to examine the fitness of Suntai.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday that the panel should include the personal physician to the governor.
Ajulo said, “The Speaker of the assembly , Alhaji Tsokwa, has the power under the 1999 Constitution to set up a medical panel to ascertain the fitness of the governor.
“Section 189 (4a) and (4b) states that in a case where the governor is showing unfitness of sorts, the Speaker shall constitute a five-member medical panel to which the ‘personal physician of the governor must be a member,’’
It was gathered in Jalingo that with this action of the lawmakers, they might commence impeachment moves against the governor.
Suntai was flown out of the country for urgent medical treatment following injuries he sustained in a plane crash in October 2012.The governor, shortly after his arrival, wrote to the 24-member assembly informing it of his readiness to resume office.
The assembly, however, asked him to appear before it to enable it to decide on his request. Instead of accepting the invitation, Suntai dissolved the state executive council on Wednesday and appointed a former Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Timothy Kataps, as a new Secretary to the State Government and Alhaji Aminu Jika as Chief of Staff, Government House.
Meanwhile, the Police authorities said on Thursday that they were still studying the petition of Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) seeking a probe of the letter of intention to resume duty purportedly sent to the assembly by Suntai.
Falana had on Tuesday given a three-day ultimatum to the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to probe the letter which he alleged might have been forged.
Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, on Thursday confirmed to our correspondent via sms that the police had received Falana’s petition.
“Yes, we have received the petition. We are currently studying the petition,” Mba’s message read.