Ailing Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua will not be returning to the country any time soon, say authorities, but they add that his absence has not affected government activities. The president has been in a hospital in Saudi Arabia for almost three weeks.

Mr. Yar'Adua can exercise the powers of the presidency from his sick bed or from anywhere in the world with the support of his ministers, according to Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa.

But government business has ground to a halt, say critics, because the president has not signed off on a number of important appointments and policies.  
Mr. Yar’Adua’s continued absence has adversely affected a number of key government programs and policies, says Abubakar Momoh, who teaches political science at Lagos State University.

“State matters have not been attended to and we find a situation basically where nothing is going on in the country.”  He says, “The executive arm of government is a very serious business anywhere in the world, more so Nigeria, the most populous country on the continent.”

Momoh says the grounding of government business and other commercial and social activities has to do with the structure of the Nigerian system that makes the president an indispensible factor in their day to day operations.

“Even as a minister there are certain things that are over and above you.  In the list of approvals, there are limits for ministers; even as ministerial groups in the Federal Executive Council there are certain things you have to do.”

Momoh says supporters of Mr. Yar’Adua, including officials of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, are not serving the country well by criticizing those who are calling for a formal handover to the vice-president while the president recovers.

“I think they are just trying to cover themselves.  If you recall, just last week, the PDP tried to hold a meeting which they invited all party officials and governors and barely 10 governors out of over 20 turned up. So a lot of them are also involved in the politicking.”