Nigeria back changes to succession rules


Nigeria’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment on transferring presidential powers, aimed at avoiding a repeat of a crisis when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua fell seriously ill last year.

Under the amendment, when the president is absent or unable to discharge his duties, he must inform parliament that he is handing over power to the vice president. If the president fails to send a letter within 21 days, parliament can designate the vice president as acting president by a majority vote.

Yar’Adua never wrote a formal letter to parliament handing over power when he disappeared from public view, leaving Africa’s most populous country without a clear leader for months. The uncertainty ended only when Yar’Adua died last month and his deputy Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in to succeed him.

The House of Representatives passed the amendment, part of a package of constitutional changes, yesterday following Senate approval the previous day. It must now be approved by two thirds of Nigeria’s 36 state legislatures before it becomes law.

Parliament also approved changes to the 1999 Constitution which will allow politicians who are accused of fraud, but not convicted, to run for federal and state office.

More than a dozen former governors and ministers have been accused of corruption in one of the world’s most tainted countries, but few have been convicted, with cases getting bogged down in legal wrangling.

Corruption is endemic in Nigeria, from policemen at checkpoints demanding bribes to senior government officials accused of embezzling millions of dollars.

A federal election is due to take place before the current presidential term ends in May 2011.

Parliament also voted to make it more difficult to run for office by requiring candidates to be college educated. Currently, a politician needs only a high school-level certificate.

Pic: The Late Nigerian president- Umaru Yar’Adua