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Nigerian Senate Seeks Clarification on President's Absence

  • Gilbert da Costa

Nigerian President Uamru Yar'Adua (file photo)

Nigerian President Uamru Yar'Adua (file photo)

Nigeria's senate says President Umaru Yar'Adua, who has been away for more than two months receiving treatment for a heart condition, should fully transfer executive powers to his deputy by formally notifying parliament of his absence. For

The Nigeria senate decision puts more pressure on ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua to resolve the lingering leadership crisis in Africa's most populous nation.

The Nigerian constitution says whenever the president writes to parliament to say he is going on vacation or otherwise unable to perform his duties, the vice president takes over temporarily.

President Yar'Adua has not formally transferred power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, triggering a power vacuum leading to fears of a military takeover.

The number-two man in the military regime that handed over power to an elected government in 1999, Mike Akhigbe, says the matter ought not to have dragged for so long and blames those close to the president for the confusion.

"If the president is going on leave for an extended period, the president should ordinarily write a letter that for all intents and purposes the vice president will now act as president during my absence," he said. "We have an institutional arrangement provided in the constitution. So the situation we find ourselves [in] is dishonesty. I feel sorry for the president, because what they are doing now they want to leave the man with a very bad legacy."

Last week, a federal high court ordered the cabinet to determine whether President Yar'Adua is unfit to continue to discharge his duties as head of Africa's top energy producer.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday described the level of corruption in Nigeria as "unbelievable."

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jonnie Carson, is scheduled to meet with Vice President Jonathan next month during his tour of five African states.

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