LAGOS (AFP) â€“ Nigeria’s information minister has called on ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua to transfer power, a senior official said Thursday, in the first sign of a cabinet split over his prolonged absence from the country.
Dora Akunyili, who as information minister doubles as the government’s spokeswoman, called on her cabinet colleagues to revoke a decision in which it said Yar’Adua was healthy enough to remain in power.
Nigerian newspapers reported she circulated a memorandum with the request to her ministerial colleagues at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Akunyili was not available for comment early Thursday, but a senior official who declined to be named told AFP: “What is reported in the press is correct.”
The president has been receiving treatment for a serious heart condition in a Saudi Arabian hospital since flying out of Nigeria on November 23.
According to the reports, the memorandum asks the government to demand a letter from the president justifying his absence on medical grounds and allowing Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to act as “interim president”.
World powers last week waded into the row over the president’s health, lamenting the “uncertainty” caused by his lengthy absence from the helm of Africa’s second-biggest oil exporter.
A statement signed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton expressed concern about Yar’Adua’s absence.
The joint statement came after his hand-picked cabinet deemed him fit enough to remain in office, after the High Court ordered the executive body to decide on his ability to discharge his duties.
Opposition groups have argued that the president’s illness has made him incapable of ruling the country