Attempts to fly ailing Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State back to the country in December from India to celebrate Christmas and New Year with his family proved abortive following the deterioration of his health during the trip, a competent source told Leadership yesterday.
The entire Government House, Enugu, and Chime’s personal residence in Udi, his country home, were lavishly decorated with Christmas trees and lightings a week before Christmas as part of preparations to receive the governor, who ostensibly left the country in September 2012 to spend his accumulated leave abroad.
According to the source, the governor who is suspected to be suffering from terminal disease had a relapse when he arrived in London from India, forcing his aides and relatives who accompanied him on the trip to take him back to his hospital bed in India.
The source said that the decision to bring him back to the country to celebrate Christmas and New Year was based on the need to douse the tension in the state generated by his long absence from duty.
Governor Chime had, prior to his departure from the country, addressed a letter to the speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, Barrister Eugene Odo, indicating that he was travelling abroad to spend his accumulated leave, but, according to sources, the letter did not specify the duration of the leave, neither was it brought to the notice of several members of the legislature.
The deputy governor, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, has since then been standing in as acting governor, but sources close to Government House, Enugu, alleged that Onyebuchi has limited functions since he cannot award contracts or approve expenditure worth more than a million naira.
There are strong indications that the state House of Assembly would on resumption from Christmas and New Year recess deliberate on the whereabouts of the governor and, according to a member of the house, “take appropriate action”.
According to section 189(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), “the governor or deputy governor of a state shall cease to hold office if (a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all members of the executive council of the state, it is declared that the governor or deputy governor is incapable of discharging the functions of his office; and (b) the declaration in paragraph (a) of this sub-section is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary by a medical panel established under sub-section in its report to the speaker of the House of Assembly.”
And sub-section 2 says that “where the medical panel certifies in its report that in its opinion the governor or deputy governor is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the speaker of the House of Assembly shall be published in the official gazettee of the government of the state”.
The governor or deputy governor, according to sub-section (3), “shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this section…”
Meanwhile, the leadership of Enugu State Development Association, ESDA, has said it would meet with the acting governor soon to get a clue on the whereabouts of Governor Chime and the nature of his ill-health.