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Nigerian opposition demands proof of Yar'Adua's health

ABUJA (Reuters) - A Nigerian opposition party on Monday demanded visual proof that an ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua was fit enough to govern after weeks in hospital overseas.

Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua arrives outside South African President Thabo Mbeki's office in Cape Town, June 3, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Yar’Adua, 58, has been absent from Africa’s most populous country and biggest energy producer for more than a month receiving treatment for a heart condition in Saudi Arabia, but there have been few updates on his health.

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has been presiding over cabinet meetings but executive powers have not officially been transferred to him, leading to questions over the legality of decisions made by the government in Yar’Adua’s absence.

The opposition Action Congress party said the government must provide “concrete evidence” of Yar’Adua’s physical condition, suggesting a dated video recording of the Nigerian leader in his hospital room in Saudi Arabia.

“It is necessary for President Yar’Adua, if indeed he is recovering as Nigerians have been praying he does, to move fast to reassure his compatriots that the rumors surrounding his ill health are unfounded,” said Lai Mohammed, spokesman for Action Congress.

A presidency spokesman declined to comment on the demands.

Political analysts and senior lawyers say affairs of state are already being affected by Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence, pushing Nigeria to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

Vice President Jonathan said on Friday he was hopeful Yar’Adua would return soon and continue as president with “renewed vigor and vitality.”

But the opposition party said government assurances over Yar’Adua’s health were no longer enough and Nigerians wanted to decide for themselves.

(Reporting by Randy Fabi; editing by Andrew Roche)

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