Lawyer takes action to prevent power vacuum

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The Independent Online

A leading human rights lawyer has launched legal action to try to force Nigeria's President, Umaru Yar'Adua, to hand executive powers to his deputy while he receives medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Femi Falana, who was a prominent pro-democracy campaigner during military rule in the country, said decisions made by the cabinet in Mr Yar'Adua's absence were illegal because he had not formally handed over to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan.

Africa's most populous nation risked sliding into crisis if it continued to be unclear who was in charge, he said, adding: "When the President is not around and there is no acting President, the business of government will simply be paralysed."

Mr Yar'Adua, 58, was flown to a clinic in Jeddah three weeks ago and diagnosed with acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart membrane that can restrict normal beating. The cabinet has dismissed calls for him to resign.