Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has assumed office as acting president, more than two months after President Umaru Yar'Adua left for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Parliament earlier recognised Jonathan as acting head of state in an effort to end uncertainty that has threatened to paralyse government business.
“The circumstances in which I find myself assuming office today as Acting President of our country are uncommon, sober and reflective,” Jonathan said in an address on national television, urging Nigerians to pray for Yar’Adua’s recovery and return, according to Reuters.
The fact that there was no formal transfer of power had led to doubts over who was ruling the country and raised the prospect of the worst political crisis since the end of military rule more than a decade ago.
Although Nigeria’s cabinet has previously opposed any formal transfer of powers, the justice minister said Jonathan had the government’s full support—suggesting that it would not obstruct him from acting as president.
“The cabinet has already, since the president left, recognised the vice president as the leader of the country pending when Mr President returns,” said Justice Minister and Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa.
Motions backed earlier by both chambers of parliament enable Jonathan to pass legislation and act as commander of the armed forces until Yar’Adua declares he is fit enough to resume his duties.
Yar’Adua has been receiving treatment for a heart condition for more than two months.
Jonathan said the government would take every step necessary to build on the gains of an amnesty programme in the oil-producing Niger Delta. Militants in the region have threatened fresh attacks, saying Yar’Adua’s absence was slowing the programme.
Both the Senate and House of Representatives made clear that Jonathan would hold executive powers only until the president could return to office.