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President Returns to Nigeria, Will Leave for More Medical Tests Soon

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, sits with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja House, London, March 9, 2017.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has returned to the country after a medical leave of a month and a half that raised questions about his health and some calls for his replacement.

The government announced his arrival in the capital, Abuja, Friday morning. Photos from his arrival showed the president smiling and walking without assistance. “I am feeling much better now,” his personal assistant, Bashir Ahmad, quoted him as saying on Twitter.

Buhari said he will continue to rest and undergo further medical tests in Britain within weeks, after returning home from two months of medical leave, Reuters reported.

“I deliberately came back towards the weekend, so that the Vice President (Yemi Osinbajo) will continue and I will continue to rest,” he said in Abuja. “All I will need is to do further follow ups within some weeks.”

Few details have been released about Buhari’s medical leave in London. When he left Nigeria January 19, the government said it was for routine medical checkups and that he would return in early February.

Instead, the 74-year-old remained out of sight for weeks while anxiety rose in Africa’s most populous nation, which is grappling with crises including Boko Haram extremist attacks and an economy that last year contracted for the first time in a quarter-century.

Some expressed anger at taxpayer-funded treatment for top officials overseas while people at home cope with poorly funded health care. Others suggested that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a 59-year-old lawyer and pastor who handled matters in Buhari’s absence, should stay on and lead the country, which is one of Africa’s largest economies and top oil producers

A statement Thursday from special adviser Femi Adesina said Buhari’s “holiday” had been extended on doctors’ recommendations for further testing and rest. It gave no details about the health of the president.

The statement also said Buhari expressed appreciation for Nigerians who have “prayed fervently” for him during his absence.

During his long absence, Buhari spoke once by phone with President Donald Trump as the new U.S. leader reached out to a couple of Africa’s largest economies.