News / Africa

Nigerian Court Delays Ruling on Presidency Cases

Lawyers are persisting with three lawsuits seeking to have Nigeria's VP installed as acting president, with full authority, until President Umaru Yar'Adua returns

Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua (file)
Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua (file)

A Nigerian court has postponed judgement on demands that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan be given full executive powers in the absence of ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua.

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

However, 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 Thursday was adjourned until next week, with Judge Dan Abutu saying no rulings are expected until January 22.

President Yar'Adua has been hospitalized in Saudi Arabia since late November with what officials have said is a heart condition, acute pericarditis.  The president also is known to have a chronic kidney ailment.

Opposition groups say his absence has left the government adrift and threatens Nigeria's stability.

Wednesday's ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by a lawyer, Christopher Onwuekwe, who asked the court to clarify the vice president's powers.

Vice President Jonathan has been chairing Cabinet meetings and carrying out other duties in the president's absence, but critics have questioned whether his actions have legal standing.

President Yar'Adua made no public comments for 50 days before giving a brief interview to the BBC on Tuesday.  In that interview, the president said he is getting better and hopes to return to Nigeria soon to resume his duties.

The Nigerian leader sounded lucid but weak, and gave no indication when he might come home.

The issue of the presidency is especially sensitive in Nigeria, where the ruling party rotates the office between the Muslim-dominated north and Christian-dominated south.

President Yar'Adua hails from the north, while Vice President Jonathan is a southerner.

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