Nigeria Court Gives Sick President A Deadline

January 22, 2010 - 9:35 AM
Three lawsuits aim to force the federal government to allow the vice president to take over for the ailing president, who left the country for medical treatment weeks ago.
Abuja, Nigeria (AP) - A high court justice said Friday that Nigeria's Cabinet must pass a resolution within 14 days determining whether the ailing president is capable of remaining in power.
 
Judge Dan Abutu ruled Friday that the Cabinet must reconvene to determine the fate of the presidential office.
 
President Umaru Yar'Adua left Nigeria nearly two months ago to seek medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. He has long been troubled by a kidney ailment, and doctors have said the 58-year-old is now suffering from acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.
 
Three lawsuits aim to force the federal government to allow the vice president to take over. Abutu is ruling on two of the cases.
 
While Nigerian law allows for a smooth transition of power from Yar'Adua to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, the president left without formally appointing an acting leader, as the constitution requires.
 
The constitution puts Jonathan next in line, but it's unclear if the Muslim-dominated north would allow the Muslim Yar'Adua to be replaced with Jonathan, who is a Christian. The Nigerian presidency alternates between Christian and Muslim leaders, and Yar'Adua still has two years left in his term.
 
Yar'Adua's nearly two-month absence prompted hundreds of Nigerians to protest in the capital earlier this month after the leader said in a radio interview that he hoped to recover and return to power.
 
"The court is directing the Cabinet to convene and pass a resolution to determine whether the president is still fit to run the office," Abutu said, adding that it is not in the court's power to make a final decision on the president.
 
Michael Aondoakaa, Nigeria's attorney general, said the government will abide by the judgment of the court.
 
"The executive council of the Federation of Nigerian will be sorting this as directed and will consider a resolution on the state of the president's health," he said.
 
Farouk Aliyu, a member of Nigeria's opposition party filed this case.
 
Aliyu's lawyer said that Nigerians must now appeal to the Cabinet.
 
"We filed this case so that we can save our country from anarchy, from chaos and from constitutional crisis," said Aliyu's lawyer, Bamidele Aturu.
 
Last month, a group of 50 prominent Nigerians also issued a petition calling on Yar'Adua to resign if he's medically incapable of running the country.