Controversy in Niger State as Governor and Top Officials Depart for Hajj Amid Crises

By Milcah Tanimu

Niger State Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago, Deputy Governor Yakubu Garba, Speaker Barrister Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, and other high-ranking government officials have traveled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage, triggering significant concern and criticism among residents.

Reports from POLITICS NIGERIA indicate that numerous commissioners and lawmakers have also joined the pilgrimage, leaving the state during a critical period. The governor’s departure, along with nearly half of his cabinet on a chartered flight, coincides with the state’s struggles, including the aftermath of a mining pit accident and persistent security issues.

The governor’s failure to officially transfer power to his deputy has raised fears of a constitutional crisis. According to Section 190 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, the deputy governor should act as governor whenever the governor is unable to perform his duties. This lapse has led critics to label the trip an “abuse of democracy” and a “betrayal of trust,” given the state’s ongoing challenges.

Sources report that the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Abubakar Usman, has been handling official government functions since the governor’s departure. However, political leaders and civil society groups have condemned the governor’s decision, arguing that it is inappropriate for key state officials to leave without adhering to constitutional procedures for power transmission.

Dr. Mohammed Alada, a former Head of the Political Science Department at the University of Ilorin, emphasized the potential governance vacuum this situation could create. He noted that the Constitution ensures continuity of governance by allowing the deputy governor to take charge if necessary. “Governance will be at a standstill because the Constitution envisages where any of the three of them will take charge if such a situation comes up,” he said. “There is a limit to the extent the deputy speaker can go. In fact, the Constitution did not make any provision for that office; they cannot be ruling from wherever they are, someone must be fully in charge.”

Dr. Alada referenced the transition of power following the death of former President Yar’Adua, where then Vice President Jonathan was sworn in as the substantive president, to illustrate the importance of constitutional adherence. “God forbid, in a situation where the three of them did not return to the state, what will happen? It means it will be drifting without any definite direction,” he warned.

Efforts to contact the Secretary to the State Government were unsuccessful. When reached for comment, the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Bologi Ibrahim, responded curtly, “Go and write anything you want to write. No problem,” before ending the call.


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