Nigerian court to hold hearings over Yar’Adua absence


A Nigerian federal court will hold hearings next week on three lawsuits against the government which accuse an ailing president of breaching the constitution by staying in power after weeks in hospital overseas.

The Nigerian Bar Association, a leading human rights lawyer, and two former lawmakers have taken legal action in hopes a federal court will force President Umaru Yar’Adua to transfer powers to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

Judge Dan Abutu yesterday scheduled a Jan. 14 hearing for the three cases at a federal court in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

The president has been absent from Africa’s most populous country for more than a month receiving treatment for a heart condition in Saudi Arabia, but there have been few updates on his health.

Political analysts and senior lawyers say affairs of state are already being affected in sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy, pushing Nigeria to the brink of a constitutional crisis.
“We cannot see him (Yar’Adua), we don’t know where he is and don’t even know what he is doing,” NBA President Rotimi Akeredolu told Reuters.
“All we are asking is that the vice president be sworn-in as acting president.”

Nigeria’s constitution states the president should write to the heads of the two chambers of parliament if he is leaving on holiday or otherwise unable to govern, and that the vice president should take over until he writes to the contrary.

But presidency officials have said Yar’Adua is responding to treatment, while the government has said state business is going on normally, with the vice president overseeing weekly meetings of the cabinet.

Prominent human rights lawyer Femi Falana has also filed a similar lawsuit, but the government has disputed it.
“Falana cannot file an action against the government because he has not been (injured) by it,” Attorney General Michael Aondokaa said in federal court.