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NEWS FOCUS: NIGERIA

LES PROBLEMES DE SANTE DU PRESIDENT UMARU YAR'ADUA INQUIETENT LE NIGERIA Le Monde - 24 d√©cembre 2009 par Jean-Philippe R√©my Y a-t-il quelqu'un √† la t√™te du Nigeria ? Apr√®s un mois d'absence de son pr√©sident, Umaru Yar'Adua, √©vacu√© √† l'√©tranger pour des raisons de sant√©, le pays le plus peupl√© d'Afrique (150 millions d'habitants) s'inqui√®te. Le chef de l'Etat avait quitt√© son pays le 23 novembre pour √™tre hospitalis√© d'urgence en Arabie saoudite. Il devait alors, selon son m√©decin, y √™tre soign√© pour un probl√®me cardiaque. Depuis, il n'a fait aucune apparition, ne s'est livr√© √† aucune d√©claration et, surtout, n'a donn√© aucune consigne pour la conduite des affaires de l'Etat en son absence. Dans un pays o√Ļ l'hypoth√®se d'un putsch est loin d'√™tre n√©gligeable (les militaires n'ont quitt√© le pouvoir qu'en 1998), cette situation suscite d'autant plus d'inqui√©tudes que le pr√©sident, jeudi 24 d√©cembre, n'avait toujours pas formellement confi√© le pouvoir √† son vice-pr√©sident. Selon la Constitution, le chef de l'Etat peut, en cas d'absence ou de maladie, confier la gestion des affaires par int√©rim au vice-pr√©sident, √† condition d'en informer par √©crit les chefs du S√©nat et de la Chambre des repr√©sentants. Ces lettres n'ont pas √©t√© envoy√©es, paralysant l'action de l'Etat. Cinquante-trois responsables politiques et √©conomiques (issus en majorit√© de l'opposition) viennent de former un groupe, surnomm√© le G53, dont le slogan "Sauvez la d√©mocratie maintenant" montre l'inqui√©tude du Nigeria. Ils appellent le pr√©sident √† confier ses responsabilit√©s √† Goodluck Jonathan, le vice-pr√©sident. Un autre article de la Constitution pr√©voit que le vice-pr√©sident peut assurer la conduite des affaires de l'Etat dans le cas o√Ļ "l'incapacit√© permanente" du pr√©sident est √©tablie. Ces derni√®res semaines, l'√©tat exact de sant√© d'Umaru Yar'Adua a √©t√© tenu secret, alimentant les rumeurs. Des r√©unions ont √©t√© organis√©es par de hauts responsables pour examiner les hypoth√®ses pouvant conduire √† une succession en douceur dans le cas o√Ļ Umaru Yar'Adua d√©c√©derait ou serait incapable de reprendre ses fonctions. Jusqu'ici, aucune solution ne semble avoir √©t√© retenue, laissant planer la menace d'une tentative de coup d'Etat militaire. Selon certaines sources, Umaru Yar'Adua aurait √©t√© emp√™ch√© par son entourage de confier les r√™nes du pouvoir √† Goodluck Jonathan pour des raisons de distribution g√©ographique du pouvoir. Selon une r√®gle non √©crite au sein du parti au pouvoir, le Parti d√©mocratique du peuple (PDP), la pr√©sidence nig√©riane √©choit, alternativement, √† un repr√©sentant de l'√©lite du Nord, puis √† celle du Sud. C'est au tour des repr√©sentants du Nord du pays de diriger le Nigeria. Alors que le pr√©sident Yar'Adua est le descendant d'une grande lign√©e d'aristocrates et d'officiers sup√©rieurs du Nord, Goodluck Jonathan est originaire du delta du Niger, dans le sud. Cette r√©gion p√©trolif√®re (le Nigeria est le sixi√®me producteur mondial de brut) a √©t√© saccag√©e d'un point de vue √©cologique, et marginalis√©e depuis des d√©cennies sur le plan √©conomique. Les mouvements arm√©s, dont certains flirtent avec le crime organis√©, y prosp√®rent. Le plus important, le Mouvement d'√©mancipation du delta du Niger (Mend), a proclam√© en ao√Ľt un cessez-le-feu accompagn√© de mesures d'amnistie. Le processus de paix dans la r√©gion est le premier √† souffrir de la vacance du pouvoir. Lors de son √©lection, les mauvaises conditions de sant√© d'Umura Yar'Adua √©taient connues. Officiellement, il √©tait suppos√© souffrir de probl√®mes r√©naux. Depuis son accession au pouvoir, il s'est absent√© cinq fois pour des soins m√©dicaux √† l'√©tranger. L'ancien gouverneur de l'Etat de Katsina a √©t√© choisi pour √™tre le candidat du parti au pouvoir lors des √©lections de 2007 par l'ex-pr√©sident Obasanjo, qui avait √©chou√© √† modifier la Constitution pour briguer un troisi√®me mandat. POTENTIAL CANDIDATES FOR NIGERIA'S NEXT LEADER Reuters - December 24, 2009 by Tume Ahemba Lagos - President Umaru Yar'Adua has been absent from Nigeria for more than a month receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, prompting speculation about what would happen should he become unable to govern. The 58-year-old leader was flown to a clinic in Jeddah in late November after complaining of chest pains and has been diagnosed with acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane around the heart that can restrict normal beating. Presidency officials have said Yar'Adua is responding to treatment, while the government has said state business is going on normally, with Vice President Goodluck Jonathan overseeing weekly meetings of the cabinet, or Federal Executive Council. But pressure from the opposition and parts of civil society has been mounting for Yar'Adua either to undergo a formal medical test to prove his fitness to govern, or resign. The cabinet has dismissed the calls. [ID:nGEE5B11W4] Vice President Jonathan would take over if the president resigns or becomes permanently incapable of discharging his functions, according to the constitution. But there would then be fierce competition within the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) for the position of vice president to replace Jonathan as his deputy would be the de facto PDP presidential candidate in polls in 2011. Jonathan, a southerner, is unlikely to stand in 2011 because of an unwritten agreement among the political elite that the presidency rotates between the north and south every two terms. Following are some of names being mentioned within the PDP and in the Nigerian media as possible successors to Yar'Adua: ALIYU GUSAU A retired general and former National Security Adviser to Yar'Adua's direct predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, who remains a powerful kingmaker in the ruling party. Gusau was the main contender alongside Yar'Adua to be the PDP ruling party candidate in the 2007 polls, coming second in the primaries. He is seen as a favourite among powerful northern military generals. SULE LAMIDO Populist governor of the backwater state of Jigawa, Lamido was foreign minister under Obasanjo. He is said to enjoy the support of the former president and of current Vice President Jonathan, whom he backed to power. But analysts say Lamido is seen by his northern kinsmen as politically weak and too heavily influenced by Obasanjo, unpopular for foisting Yar'Adua on the nation despite knowing of his health problems. ABBA RUMA Minister for Agriculture and a confidant of Yar'Adua since his days as governor of the remote northwestern state of Katsina, Ruma was a former education minister under Obasanjo. Abba is an influential member of the Yar'Adua's close-knit inner circle, which includes powerful First Lady Turai Yar'Adua. He is seen as one of the candidates most likely to protect the interests of the incumbent's closest allies. BUKOLA SARAKI Ambitious governor of the central state of Kwara, Saraki is another close confidant of Yar'Adua. He is a trained medical doctor and was director of Societe Generale Bank (Nigeria) for 10 years up to 2000, when he served as special assistant to the president on budgetary matters. Saraki, who is serving his second and final term, is the chairman of the Governors' Forum, a powerful grouping which is influential in selecting presidential candidates. He is also close to James Ibori, the former governor of Delta state and one of Nigeria's most influential politicians who was instrumental in Yar'Adua's rise to power. He is the son of Kwara state political "godfather" Olusola Saraki, who vied for the presidency in the 1990s and is now an influential senior figure in the PDP. MAHMUD YAYALE AHMED Yar'Adua appointed Yayale secretary to the federal government in September 2008, a powerful position which co-ordinates between ministries and the presidency. He had previously served as defence minister.¬† Obasanjo, the most powerful civil servant, but is reported to have since fallen out with the former president. ISA YUGUDA Governor of northeastern Bauchi state, Yuguda is Yar'Adua's son-in-law and a member of his kitchen cabinet. He spearheads the president's economic think-tank, an advisory committee set up to steer the country through the global economic downturn. Once a bank managing director, Yuguda was among those tipped to take over as governor of the central bank earlier this year. Aviation minister during Obasanjo's first term, he won the 2007 Bauchi governorship election on the platform of the opposition All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) but has since switched to the ruling party. JIBRIL AMINU A second term senator from northeast Adamawa state, Aminu narrowly missed being vice president in 1999 when Obasanjo preferred Atiku Abubakar over him. The erudite politician was compensated with an appointment as ambassador to the United States from 1999-2003. A former university vice chancellor, he served as oil minister under former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida. Though Aminu also enjoys Obasanjo's support and that of the National Assembly, he is disadvantaged because he is in his 70s and is known to have medical problems of his own. (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ ) 24 DAYS AFTER, MINISTERS STILL CAN'T REACH YAR'ADUA Vanguard - December 24, 2009 by Leke Adeseri, Henry Umoru and Daniel Idonor Lagos - Twenty-four days after he was taken to Saudi Arabia for medical attention, the hide-and- seek game over the state of health of President Umaru Yar'Adua continued yesterday with top Federal Government officials preferring that Nigerians be silent over the all-important issue for which virtually no information has been released. Very worrisome, however, is the fact that since Yar'Adua left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia, none of his cabinet members had spoken with him. Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State and the President's in-law and Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Isa Yuguda, who went to Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Governors' Forum, came back without a clear picture of the situation with the nation's number one citizen. However, the Federal Government, yesterday, declared that God was answering the prayers of Nigerians for the quick recovery of their President, who has been receiving treatment at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; saying that "he is responding to treatment and that is true." FG cautions media Fielding questions from State House Correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, the Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, cautioned the media over their too-much emphasis on the health of the President. The minister's comment on the President's state of health coincided with the Federal Government's earlier plan to "clarify the media on the alleged pressure on Yar'Adua's close aides to appeal to the President to address cabinet members and the nation via video conference from the Middle-East,'' a plan that was, however, aborted without explanation. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, had told reporters before the meeting of his intention to clarify issues relating to the proposed video conference, as soon as the meeting ended. But, he was nowhere to be found after the FEC meeting as he refused to show up at the briefing room during the post-FEC meeting which was attended by Akunyili, her Agriculture and Aviation counterparts, Alhaji Abba Ruma and Mr Babatunde Omotoba respectively. He was said to have told his colleagues that he was rushing to Jos, for official engagement. FEC meeting briefing not for Yar'Adua ‚ÄĒ Akunyili A visibly worried Akunyili disclosed that the reason behind the post-FEC briefing every week was to announce to Nigerians current efforts by the government to grow the nation's economy through vital policies and infrastructural development and not emphasis on the President's health. "The essence of the Council meeting and this briefing is service delivery and I want us to focus more on what we are doing, as for Mr. President's health, our position has not changed. Last week, I was asked the same question and I told you that he is still in a Saudi Hospital, he is responding to treatment, thank God, and it is the doctors that will actually determine the date that he will return to Nigeria," she noted. She, therefore, appealed to the media and indeed, Nigerians to exercise restrain in commenting on the President's health; decrying that the matter of his ill-health had gained too much attention among Nigerians. "So, I will appeal to all of us not to over-emphasise whether the President is sick or not, the emphasis is getting too much, let us emphasise on the projects that we have presented to you. You can ask questions on them, and we clarify grey areas; that is why we are here. "I don't think it is necessary for us to continue saying one thing over and over, because nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that he is responding to treatment, well, it is the same, last week. I told you he is responding to treatment and that is true. "Today, it is the same comment, it hasn't changed, and I honestly want to thank you for your prayers because most Nigerians are actually praying for Mr. President. Yes, our prayers are being answered, he is responding to treatment," she stated. Also commenting, Ruma, generally believed to be a close confidant of the President, expressed deep concern over the way and manner the issue of Yar'Adua's ill-health had generated controversy; warning that Nigerians should note that Yar'Adua was not Nigeria's first President to be hospitalised. "This is not the first time the President of Nigeria is sick, at a time there was a president that left this country for three months to attend to his health and nobody contemplated about his removal or resignation. "The law is also very clear about this, except perhaps due to our sentiments, whims, caprices and emotions. "I believe you have the capacity; I believe you have the knowledge-based disposition to have another look at this on the basis of facts, on the basis of what should be placed on the table for Nigerians to come to terms with on this issue. Nobody is saying you don't have the right to know, we do appreciate the anxiety," he remarked. "The truth about this matter is that, in all other democracies, not only in the Nigerian democracy, what has been the reality when such had happened before? How was it resolved in other places? I believe that should be the issue," he said. The Council had during its deliberations approved contracts for the revised estimated consultancy services and the framework design to complete the Zobe water supply project in Katsina State from a total cost of N79.8 million plus Euro 343,666 to N205.6 million plus Euro 623,932. LAWMAKER GOES TO COURT OVER YAR'ADUA'S ABSENCE This Day - December 24, 2009 by Funso Muraina and Charles Ajunwa Lagos - A new twist has been added to President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's absence-from-the-country saga, as an opposition member of the House of Representatives - Farouk Adamu Aliyu - and one Sani Garun Gabass have approached an Abuja Federal High Court seeking an order directing Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to start performing the function of the president. Also yesterday, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) denied that he wrote to the vice-president, asking him to take over from President Yar'Adua who has been admitted in a Saudi Arabian hospital since November 23, 2009. Aondoakaa said he was not in a position to direct the vice-president to take over. The plaintiffs in the suit, Aliyu representing Birni Kudu/ Buji Federal Constituency of Jigawa State on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP)√Ę-√†and Gabbas, said the president's absence for more than a month "constitutes permanent incapacity within the meaning and intendment of Section 146 of the 1999 Constitution". Joined as defendant in the suit is the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The plaintiffs said in the affidavit in support of the originating summons that the president had been undergoing treatment at an hospital in Saudi Arabia since the November 23, 2009 "and no member of the executive council of the Federation including the defendants know when he will return to his duty or his state of health". They also said members of the executive council of the federation had refused or neglected to take any step to investigate or determine the actual state of health of the president. The plaintiffs also said the refusal of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the National Assembly and members of the executive council of the Federation to investigate the actual state of health of the president and pass or reject a resolution as to whether he is capable to continue in office had thrown the country into wild speculation. The refusal of the vice-president to perform the functions of the president in the absence of the president had grounded the activities of government, they said. According to the plaintiffs, "the absence of the president from the country and from his duty has led to failure on the part of the members of the executive council of the Federation or the Federal Government of Nigeria to prepare the annual cash plan for the 2010 financial year. "The security of lives and property and public safety have been left unattended to without anyone to issue lawful directions." The plaintiffs asked the court to determine the following issues: *Whether having regards to the fact that the president who has not been on vacation and has been undergoing treatment at a hospital in Saudi Arabia since the 23rd day of November, the executive council of the Federation ought not to be compelled to pass and publicize a resolution as to whether or not the president is incapable of discharging the function of his office. *Whether the absence of President Yar'Adua from Nigeria and from his constitutional and statutory duties for medical treatment since the 23rd day of November, 2009 at a Saudi Arabia hospital without being on vacation does not constitute permanent incapacity within the meaning and general intendment of section 146 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. They also asked the court to grant the following reliefs: *A declaration that the absence of the president from the country and from his statutory duties and functions for medical treatment since the 23rd day of November, 2009 in a Saudi Arabia hospital outside the purview of Section 145 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 constitutes permanent incapacity within the meaning and intendment of Section 146 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. *A declaration that it is unconstitutional for the vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to refuse to exercise the functions of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having regard to the circumstances surrounding the absence of President Yar'Adua from Nigeria and from his constitutional and statutory duties for medical treatment since the 23rd day of November, 2009 at a Saudi Arabia hospital. No date has been fixed for the case. The 58-year-old Nigerian leader was flown to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on November 23, 2009 after complaining of chest pains and has been diagnosed with acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane around the heart. The AGF, in a statement in Abuja signed by his Senior Special Assistant, Media, Onov Tyuulugh, said he was responding to insinuations in some quarters that he could ask the vice-president to take over from President Yar'Adua. He said the insinuation was wrong in its entirety and that "I, as the number one law officer of the Federation, do not have such powers to direct the vice-president to take over". Aondoakaa said: "The relevant section of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vests the powers to remove or replace the President of the Federation on the National Assembly." He also noted that the Chief Justice of the Federation, the President of the Court of Appeal or any judicial officer could function in their capacities after taking their oaths of office as stipulated in Section 290 of the constitution. He did not elaborate on that. But following the Oath Act, only the President can swear in the Chief Justice of the Federation while the CJN in turn is empowered to swear in the President of the Court of Appeal and other justices of the Supreme Court. And there are fears that the absence of the President and his failure to properly hand over to the vice-president can stall the swearing-in of a new CJN expected to take over by January 1, 2010. Aondoakaa said it had become necessary to make the clarifications following what he called the misconceptions making the rounds on the positions of the president and the vice-president under the constitution. There have been claims and counter claims on the need for the vice-president to take over the duties of the president following the absence of President Yar' Adua. The return date of the President is yet unclear. Meanwhile, Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, has said the letter if it existed at all is diversionary and misguided and should be ignored. In a statement made available to http://www.thisdayonline.com/ last night, Falana said: "The letter sent to the vice-president by the AGF ought to be ignored as it is diversionary and misguided. The AGF lacks the vires to donate to the vice-president the executive powers confered on the president by virtue of section 5 of the constition, however, the vice-president can become president if the president has become permanently incarpacitated pursuant to section 146 of the constitution. "The vice-president cannot sign any bill into law under the constitution. Furthermore the incoming Chief Justice of Nigeria and Court of Appeal president cannot begin to perform the function until they have taken oath of office administered by the president pursuant to section 29 of the constitution and the oaths act."





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