ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua returned under cover of darkness on Wednesday from three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, reviving uncertainty over the leadership of Africa’s most populous nation.
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan will continue to run state business as Yar’Adua recuperates, but the secrecy surrounding his return raised concern that the 58-year-old leader will be too frail to resume office in the major oil exporter.
ABUJA (Reuters) – President Umaru Yar’Adua was expected to arrive back in Nigeria on Wednesday, three months after he left for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, Nigerian government sources and a Saudi airport official said.
There was no immediate word on the condition of the 58-year-old leader, who left for a clinic in Jeddah in late November where he has been receiving treatment for a heart condition.
ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s proposed oil industry reforms could drive away billions in investment, slow development of deep water reserves, and help Angola eclipse it as Africa’s biggest oil producer, oil majors said on Tuesday.
Industry executives pressed their point at an annual industry forum in Abuja two weeks after acting President Goodluck Jonathan assumed executive powers in the absence of the OPEC member’s ailing leader.
ABUJA, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s Acting President
Goodluck Jonathan expects swift progress reviving an amnesty
programme in the oil-producing Niger Delta and recent talks with
militants give grounds for hope, his spokesman said on Monday.
Maintaining peace in the Niger Delta, the heartland of the
OPEC member’s oil industry, is one of the four top priorities
for Jonathan, who assumed full executive powers last week in the
absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua, spokesman Ima Niboro said.
LAGOS (Reuters) – The United States on Friday congratulated Nigeria for maintaining democratic principles after Vice President Goodluck Jonathan assumed executive powers in the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Washington is the first major foreign power to publicly comment since Jonathan took over as acting head of state on Tuesday to fill a power vacuum left by Yar’Adua’s more than two month absence for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.
LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan’s takeover as acting head of state eases immediate concerns over who is in charge but political uncertainty will persist until the next presidential elections are held. Jonathan moved quickly to stamp his authority after assuming presidential powers, with a wide-ranging broadcast to the nation in which he pledged to prioritize peace in the oil-producing Niger Delta, punish those behind religious unrest and work toward credible national elections next year.
“It is now time for us to move on in a more determined manner to tackle the various challenges which we face as a nation,” he said in the address late on Tuesday.
LAGOS, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s main militant group called off a three-month old ceasefire in the oil-producing Niger Delta on Saturday and threatened to unleash an "all-out onslaught" on Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry.
The announcement by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) could not come at a worse time for Nigeria, with President Umaru Yar’Adua in hospital in Saudi Arabia and uncertainty over who is in charge of the country.
For a full story, click on [ID:nLDE60T004]
PRESSURE ON THE PRESIDENCY
MEND’s announcement piles further pressure on Nigeria’s leaders to resolve the impasse over who is in charge.
Yar’Adua has been in Saudi Arabia for more than two months receiving treatment for a heart condition but has failed to formally transfer powers to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, bringing the country to the brink of constitutional crisis.
A federal high court has said Jonathan can perform presidential duties but not be acting president, a ruling which leaves unclear his authority to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces should an additional military deployment in the Niger Delta be required.
The Senate, former heads of state and ex-ministers, the Nigerian Bar Association and the opposition have all called on Yar’Adua to formally notify parliament of his absence and allow Jonathan to take over until his health is restored.
But the ruling party has said Yar’Adua remains fit enough to govern and the cabinet has twice passed resolutions saying there is no need for him to hand over power.
Yar’Adua was the driving force behind an amnesty programme last year which saw thousands of gunmen including key MEND field commanders hand over weapons in return for clemency and the promise of stipends, re-training and investment in the region.
But community leaders had said Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence was stalling the amnesty programme and forcing former rebels to re-think their participation. There have been frequent protests over the non-payment of stipends. [ID:nLDE60A0WU]
MEND accused the government of acting "like a victor over a conquered people" after the amnesty, and although Jonathan is from the Niger Delta region he is unlikely to be able to quickly win back the trust of disillusioned former rebels.
OIL INDUSTRY IMPACT
MEND was significantly weakened by last year’s amnesty programme, with several of its top field commanders handing over their weapons in return for clemency. It is unclear who is in charge and what operational capacity the group has left.
But oil infrastructure in the delta, a network of thousands of shallow creeks opening into the Gulf of Guinea, is extremely exposed with thousands of kilometres (miles) of pipeline passing through remote and thickly-forested terrain.
"To damage a pipeline just takes one youth who is able to swim and carry a beer bottle that is filled with sand and petrol," Emmanuel Uduaghan, governor of Delta state, one of the three main states in the region, said last month.
Unrest in the region in the three years from early 2006 prevented the OPEC member from pumping much above two-thirds of its 3 million barrels per day installed capacity and the insecurity has been a major deterrent to new investment.
Nigeria’s light crude is popular with U.S. and European refiners as it is easily processed into fuel products. Attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure helped lift global oil prices to record highs near $150 a barrel in 2008.
Nigeria also holds the world’s seventh-largest proven gas reserves and supplies 10 percent of global liquefied natural gas.
Leading U.S. oil companies ExxonMobil <XOM.N> and Chevron <CVX.N>, Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L>, Italy’s Agip <ENI.MI> and France’s Total <TOTF.PA> have all seen their operations affected by unrest in the past.
MEND said on Saturday it would also start targeting oil services companies, which it said had seen a boom in business as they repaired pipelines damaged in its previous campaigns.
The violence in the Niger Delta, which has included kidnappings, pipeline bombings and oilfield raids, had been costing sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest economy $1 billion a month in lost oil revenues, according to the central bank.
Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said last year that growth in Nigeria hinged largely on a solution being found to the unrest in the region. [ID:nL5273925]
The insecurity has been a major deterrent to new investment.
Hundreds of foreign workers have been kidnapped in the region. Most are quickly released after payment of a ransom, but companies in sectors ranging from energy to telecommunications and construction have withdrawn non-essential staff.
The amnesty programme and resulting lull in violence of several months had been seen as one of relatively few significant achievements of Yar’Adua’s nearly three-year-old administration.
His absence from the political scene will make it difficult for the government to get the amnesty programme back on track should MEND carry out its threat to resume attacks.
Of greater concern is the prospect of instability in the heartland of Nigeria’s mainstay industry at a time when the country is approaching national elections in 2011 without clarity over who is leading the country.
Some of the factions which came together to form MEND originally enjoyed strong backing from politicians who used them to help rig elections.
The campaign period for next year’s elections are expected to begin around June and analysts fear local political rivals could again exploit unrest in the Niger Delta to their own ends.
(For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ ) (Writing by Nick Tattersall)
Four days of clashes this week between Christian and Muslim mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes killed hundreds of people in Jos and surrounding communities before the military was deployed to contain the violence. At least 460 people have been reported killed
LAGOS (Reuters) – A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day began his journey in Ghana and spent less than 30 minutes in Nigeria’s Lagos airport, the Nigerian government said on Thursday.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with trying to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on December 25 with almost 300 people on board.
LAGOS, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Nigeria is on the brink of
constitutional crisis with its ailing president not transferring
powers to his deputy and political king makers feuding over his
succession, a senior lawyer and a former U.S. envoy have warned.
President Umaru Yar’Adua has been absent from Africa’s most
populous nation for more than a month receiving treatment for a
heart condition in Saudi Arabia, but there have been no official
updates on his health for weeks.