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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Nigeria row over election holiday
Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar
Mr Abubakar's candidacy look increasingly in doubt
Nigeria's president has declared Thursday and Friday public holidays - delaying a court ruling on whether his deputy can run in next week's polls.

Atiku Abubakar's spokesman described the move as a pre-emptive move against the Supreme Court.

The vice-president's court hearing will now take place on Monday, just five days before the presidential vote.

The government says the unexpected break is to give people time to travel to vote in Saturday's state elections.

The holidays have also prevented scheduled court challenges by aspiring candidates in state and governorship races - closing their last window of opportunity and making their cases effectively redundant.

The most high-profile such case is that of former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye, who denies corruption accusations and is challenging his impeachment.

'Chaos'

The vice-president became a leading opposition candidate for the Action Congress after falling out with former ally President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Electoral officials have barred Mr Abubakar from running for president, saying corruption charges against him would have to be dropped for him to be eligible.

Olusegun Obasanjo
President Obasanjo is standing down after two terms

He denies any wrong-doing.

"This is a pre-emptive strike to subvert the sitting of the court. It is a holiday that nobody needs or planned for and is not necessary," vice-presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said, Reuters news agency reports.

A statement from the Action Congress party added that the move was no coincidence.

"This insidious act has robbed all political parties with the exception of the ruling PDP [People's Democratic Party] of the chance to carry out the necessary logistics including despatching funds and materials to party agents across this vast country," it said.

BBC correspondents in the capital, Abuja, said there were angry scenes at banks on Wednesday as people rushed to withdraw money for the next four days.

Many banks stayed open late to deal with the crowds.

The BBC's Alex Last in Port Harcourt says the row adds to the general perception of mild chaos in the run-up to the polls.

With just days to go, there are widespread complaints that the electoral commission has failed to display the voters register and in many places, people still do not know where the polling stations will be.

Violence

With Mr Abubakar's candidacy in doubt, the main contenders for president are the PDP's Umaru Yar'Adua and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP).

Mr Buhari is on Thursday expected to hold a meeting of opposition parties, seeking to form a "grand alliance" against the PDP.

Meanwhile, tension is high in north-western Katsina state, home both to Mr Buhari and Mr Yar'Adua.

Clashes broke out between the PDP's youth wing and Mr Buhari's supporters, who were gathering for a campaign rally in Katsina city, on Wednesday.

The BBC's Abba Mohammed says he saw youths attack two young men with machetes and both the PDP and ANPP offices were burnt down.

Earlier in the week, police say four people were killed in south-western Ibadan state when rival party supporters clashed during a campaign rally.

A BBC correspondent in Lagos says residents in the city are on the alert after a fiery week in which several people have been killed in sporadic violence between party rivals.


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