By Akpan Etukudo Asare
Stakeholders, lawyers and concerned citizens in Cross River State have become very anxious over the whereabouts and the state of health of their governor, Prof Ben Ayade.
It would be recalled that during a state function in late February 2018, the governor was reported to have collapsed following suspected fatigue and had to travel out of the country for health reasons even though his aides have denied.
But the commissioner for information, Mrs Rosemary Archibong said it was wrong for the press to use the word whereabout as if the governor was missing. “The Governor should be on his way back from his official trip to China and India where he signed business MoU and attracted more investments to the state.”
Following the governor’s long absence from the state critical stakeholders, including lawyers have frowned and raised the alarm, decrying his flagrant disregard for the constitutional provision, which requires him to obtain official permission from the state House of Assembly as well as transmit power to his deputy. They have expressed worry over his state of health, asking why it should be in secrecy.
Checks showed that Ayade left the state since first week of March 2018 soon after he attended endorsement rally organised by the Cross River north senatorial district where crowds were hired to chorus his achievements.
They expressed the doubt that he sought and obtained permission from the state House of Assembly to travel outside the country for such length of time, adding that he was fond of doing this.
They have described it as unconstitutional and unfortunate because the state House of Assembly has failed to exercise its role of checkmating the governor.
Expressing their displeasure that the state governor has grossly violated the constitution of the Federal Republic by not writing to and obtaining permission in writing from the assembly each time he travels out, three lawyers have blamed the assembly as “a place where anything goes”.
A constitutional lawyer who insisted not to be quoted said “The governor should have communicated with the Speaker.There are constitutional provisions if the governor has to travel. I would not know if he complied with them otherwise it would be too wrong of him.”
Mr Utum Eteng, a senior lawyer said ” It is terribly unconstitutional and unfortunate that the governor can behave in a state as if there are no people who have seen the federal constitution. The state Assembly has not done their work as it should be. They are more like a lame duck. They do not know their role. How can they keep quiet in the face of flagrant violation of the constitution! So much has gone wrong in the Cross River Assembly.”
Another, a human rights lawyer, James Ibor said, “As the number one citizen of the state, his state of health should be of public knowledge. The people have the right to know where and when the governor leaves or is in the state. It is not legal but moral right for the people to be kept abreast of what goes on or how their governor governs them.”
A community leader and public analyst in Obubra LGA, Madam Comfort Abeng said Ayade has taken thr state for granted too many times, saying his so-called signature projects such as 276 kilometres superhighway, deep seaport, construction of three new mega cities etc cannot be achievable in view of the revenue base of the state.
However, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, John Gaul Lebo denied that the governor has violated any parts of the constitution, saying he himself can travel without seeking any permission. “The governor is not sick or on annual leave. He has not gone for more than 30 days as required by the constitution for which reason he would have informed the Assembly in writing.”
When asked, the secretary to the state governor, Barrister Tina Agbor said she, too, was not in town and could not comment on the whereabouts of her principal.