Nigeria’s acting leader urged to move fast on reform

Nigeria’s acting leader must move quickly and decisively to maintain calm in the oil-producing Niger Delta, fight corruption and organize transparent elections now he has full authority, a top advisor said on Thursday.

Fears of a debilitating power struggle sprang up last week in Africa’s most populous nation, a major oil exporter, when ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua returned unexpectedly from three months in a Saudi hospital still too frail to rule.

But Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has moved quickly to reassert his authority, appointing three new advisory committees this week and on Wednesday chairing his first cabinet meeting since Yar’Adua’s return.

Theophilus Danjuma, a retired general and former defence minister appointed to head the main advisory committee, said Jonathan must “act quickly and aggressively” to capitalize on goodwill generated by his leadership so far.

“Because the times are extraordinary, the measures that need to be taken are not only urgent but extraordinary,” Danjuma said in a speech to mark the inauguration of the committee.

“What you did not have in the past was the authority. Now that you have been invested with the authority, the nation expects you to proceed quickly,” he said.

Yar’Adua did not formally hand over executive powers when he left for Saudi Arabia in November, leading to months of government paralysis and bringing Nigeria near to constitutional crisis before Jonathan assumed executive powers on February 9 with the backing of parliament and recognition of the cabinet.

The United States and former colonial power Britain have voiced their support for Jonathan and warned that Yar’Adua’s powerful aides — struggling to maintain their influence — should not try to undermine his authority.



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