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In Nigeria, Legal Questions Arise Over Transfer of Presidential Powers


In Nigeria, reactions are continuing to trail the court ruling ordering Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to take over the duties of ailing president Umaru Yar’Adua.

Wednesday the Federal High Court said Vice President Jonathan could serve as Nigeria’s acting leader without a formal transfer of power.

But lawyers are persisting with three lawsuits seeking to have Jonathan installed as acting president, with full authority, until Mr. Yar’Adua can return.

A hearing in Abuja today was adjourned until next week, with Judge Dan Abutu saying no rulings are expected until January 22.

The court action has complicated Nigeria’s political problem, says Abubakar Momoh, a political science lecturer at the Lagos State University.

“What the court said is that Vice President Jonathan Goodluck could perform presidential duties if such powers are delegated to him by the president.”

The point is, he says, that “such powers were never assigned nor delegated to the vice president when he travelled to Saudi Arabia on November 23rd, so the status ante still remains.”

The courts did not clarify the controversial issues involved in the case, says Momoh, and made matters worse for the country.

“It is also helpful if the courts help us in a more proactive way in this circumstances and I am saying this because in my view, they are trying to be politically expedient in the matter.”

In this situation, he says, he sees more politics than strict interpretation of the law.

The vice president, says Momoh, cannot order the armed forces into battle or carry out serious responsibilities of governance if he has not received a proper instrument of power transfer.

“The way it is now, if you read the ruling literally or technically, you discover they are merely saying that all those activities that symbolically [are part of the presidency are] what they expect Jonathan Goodluck to perform. Not serious business of governance.”

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