Nigeria's ruling party has suspended 19 senior members who defied the party leadership by forming a rebel faction and demanding internal reforms.
The People's Democratic Party (PDP) of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan says it suspended the faction members for failing to appear at a disciplinary hearing scheduled for Thursday. The PDP accused the rebels of "disregarding lawful directives" and "ridiculing" the party.
Members of the faction instead held a meeting in the capital, Abuja, where they complained of a lack of "internal democracy" and transparency within the PDP and its leadership. The faction demanded reforms, including changes to the way the PDP chooses its electoral nominees.
The faction calls itself the PDP Reform Forum. Its membership includes Nigeria's former Senate president Ken Nnamani and former House of Representatives speaker Bello Masari.
The PDP's suspension of the faction members is the latest sign of the party's internal divisions as it faces a presidential election next year.
Nigeria transferred presidential powers from ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua to his vice president, Mr. Jonathan, in February. Mr. Jonathan began exercising effective control of the government in November, when Mr. Yar'Adua flew to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
Since then, Mr. Jonathan has experienced friction with some cabinet members who stayed loyal to the president. Mr. Yar'Adua returned to Nigeria in February but has been too ill to govern.
Acting President Jonathan dismissed his 42-member cabinet last month in an apparent move to assert authority over the government.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.