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Nigerian Electoral Commission Removes VP's Name from Presidential Ballot


Nigeria 's electoral commission has removed the name of Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the ballot sheet, effectively disqualifying him from contesting next month's presidential elections. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports that the vice president's exclusion is bound to add to tensions as the country prepares for crucial elections next month.

Vice President Abubakar's name was conspicuously missing from the official list of candidates for next month's presidential ballot, published by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Electoral commission head Maurice Iwu says Abubakar was excluded because he has been indicted for corruption by a presidential panel.

"What we have done is that we will now be able to look at those who fulfilled the eligibility clauses, who do not have any impediments to their eligibility and we published those," he said. "All we are saying is that he [vice president] has not been cleared. There are still pending issues and that is the way we see it."

An Abuja court last week ruled that the electoral commission had no power to disqualify any candidate from contesting the polls. The commission argues that the constitution bars anyone indicted by an investigating panel from standing in elections.

Abubakar is one of the leading candidates in the presidential polls and has vowed to challenge his disqualification in court.

A Nigerian court last month ruled that President Olusegun Obasanjo has no power to sack the vice president.

Mr. Obasanjo declared the vice president's seat vacant in December, arguing he had technically resigned by becoming the candidate for opposition Action Congress.

The government has charged two close aides of the vice president with terrorism. The president has also withdrawn some of Abubakar's privileges, including security personnel, the use of cars and the official jet.

Mr. Obasanjo, a former military ruler, must step down after the election, which should mark the first transition from one civilian government to another since Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960.

Twenty-four candidates have been cleared to stand as candidates in the presidential ballot.

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