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Nigerian Minister Fears Instability Over President's Ill-Health


Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua (File)

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua (File)

Nigeria's information minister says lack of information about the state of health of President Umaru Yar'Adua is becoming a source of instability in Africa's most populous nation. The ailing president, whose return to Nigeria last week sparked renewed uncertainty, is under pressure to resign or be removed.

Dora Akunyili, the information minister who last month petitioned the Cabinet to support the transfer of executive powers to then-Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, says tensions and uncertainty about the leadership of Nigeria persist despite the vice president assuming the role of acting president.

Akunyili appealed to the bed-ridden Nigerian leader to ease the current tensions by addressing the nation on his true state of health.

"There is a political crisis," Akunyili said. "We should not pretend about it because we are yet to get out of the woods. As soon as we hear from our president or the people around him are able to come out and tell us his true health status then things will gradually normalize. Even if they have lied for too long there is nothing wrong with coming out today to say the truth."

The Nigerian leader has not been seen in public since he returned to the country last week from Saudi Arabia, where he was receiving treatment for an acute heart condition. Official delegations have failed to gain access to the sick leader.

The cloak of secrecy that surrounded his return to Nigeria has strengthened the belief that he is gravely ill.

Information Minister Akunyili say aides to the president are withholding the truth on the state of health of the Nigerian leader.

"The stories that ae coming up are really very discomforting and I wouldn't want to repeat some of them," Akunyili said. "And, why are they coming up? Because we don't have information. I am minister of information of Nigeria, but I don't have information. So when people say certain things I am not even able to say no this is not correct. How can I say this is not correct when I do not know the truth?"

Britain and the United States have both offered support to Mr. Jonathan and voiced concern that Mr. Yar'Adua's surprise arrival could lead to confusion and government deadlock.

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