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Ill Nigeria President Yar'Adua must quit - media chiefs

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua -  file photo 29 July 2009
President Umaru Yar'Adua has both heart and kidney problems

Nigeria's ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua must hand over power to his deputy within seven days or resign, a group of media chiefs has warned.

Owners of 17 newspapers and media organisations said in a joint statement that Mr Yar'Adua should be impeached if he fails to comply with the deadline.

The embattled president has been in a Saudi Arabia hospital since November.

There have been various legal cases challenging the president's ability to rule from his sick bed.

In the latest ruling, the high court said there was no constitutional requirement for an interim leader to be appointed.

Last week, the cabinet issued a statement that President Yar'Adua was "not incapable" of running the country, following a previous court ruling giving ministers two weeks to make such a declaration.

YAR'ADUA ILLNESS TIMELINE
23 November 2009 Goes to hospital in Saudi Arabia
26 November Presidential doctors say he has pericarditis - inflammation of the heart lining
23 December First court case filed urging him to step down
5 January 2010 Two more court cases filed, rights group wants president declared "missing"
12 January President gives first interview from Saudi Arabia
27 January Cabinet declares president fit
29 January Court says no need for formal transfer of power

The media owners said they were calling for the president to formally transfer power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan because he had been away for more than 70 days.

"The stakeholders hereby demand that the president cede power to his deputy or resign within seven days," their statement said.

"If he fails to take these obvious constitutional steps... the National Assembly should commence impeachment proceedings against the president for endangering the country."

Owners of several of the country's best-selling newspapers - including the Punch and the Vanguard - put their names to the communique.

Since Mr Yar'Adua left the country, fears of a power vacuum have surrounded the government.

The legal wrangling has focused on the country's constitution - which some people believe is ambiguous in its provisions for a prolonged absence by the president.

Mr Yar'Adua flew to Saudi Arabia in late November for medical treatment and has not been seen in public since.

In his only broadcast interview since he left Nigeria, he told the BBC's Hausa Service on 12 January that he would return to resume his duties as soon as his doctors would allow.

The president is suffering from an inflammation of the lining around the heart and has long suffered from kidney problems.



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