Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Nigeria's Jonathan replaces justice minister

Goodluck Jonathan - file photo from 13 November 2009
Goodluck Jonathan has taken over leadership on a temporary basis

Nigerian Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan has removed the country's justice minister, a day after taking over as acting leader.

Michael Aondoakaa was moved to a less senior post, in what analysts say is a sign of Mr Jonathan exerting control.

Mr Aondoakaa had been seen as a key figure in preventing Mr Jonathan from taking over as acting president.

President Umaru Yar'Adua has been in hospital abroad since November. His absence triggered a political crisis.

Mr Jonathan was finally installed as acting leader on Tuesday after a vote in the National Assembly. He chaired his first cabinet meeting earlier.

The cabinet said it accepted parliament's decision, despite some previous doubts over the legality of the move.

'Sacred trust'

"There was a swap in the cabinet. I am now the minister of special duties while the minister of labour takes over from me as the attorney general and minister of justice," Mr Aondoakaa told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

Mr Aondoakaa is seen as an ally of Mr Yar'Adua.

On Tuesday, Mr Jonathan said in a televised address: "I am fully aware of the responsibilities reposed in me, and I want to reassure all Nigerians that this is a sacred trust, which I shall discharge to my fullest abilities."

In a country with a history of military coups, he thanked the armed forces for "their loyalty and devotion to duty during this trying period".

Mr Goodluck also pledged to build on the amnesty for Niger Delta militants begun by Mr Yar'Adua.

Some militants in the oil-rich region have threatened to break the amnesty, citing government delays in implementing the programme.

The vice-president also asked the country to pray for Mr Yar'Adua's recovery.

Legal row

The BBC's Ahmed Idris, in Abuja, says the move among the political elite to back the vice-president is unprecedented.

The ruling party alternates leadership between north and south, and Mr Yar'Adua's northern backers had wanted to keep his southern deputy out of office.

Executive power is transferred to the vice-president under Nigeria's constitution when the president formally informs parliament of his absence.

Mr Yar'Adua never did this, but senate leader David Mark said that an interview Mr Yar'Adua carried out with the BBC's Hausa service on 12 January had effectively provided the assembly with the notice it needed.

But some analysts have suggested that the assembly's motion is not legally binding and could face court challenges.

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