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President Umaru Yar’Adua returns from Saudi hospital

Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua returned to the capital, Abuja, on Wednesday after a three-month absence while receiving medical treatment abroad. His health is expected to determine whether he resumes leadership powers from the vice president.

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REUTERS - Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua arrived back in the capital Abuja on Wednesday after more than three months in a Saudi Arabian hospital undergoing treatment for a heart condition, government sources said.

There was no immediate word on the condition of the 58-year-old leader, whose absence brought Africa’s most populous nation to the brink of constitutional crisis and threatened to paralyse the business of government, until Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as acting leader two weeks ago.

Two planes arrived at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport in Abuja, one of them met by an ambulance which left under a heavy police escort shortly afterwards, a Reuters witness said.

Soldiers lined the main road from the airport to the city, a standard manoeuvre when the president is travelling.

“He just landed at Abuja airport on a Saudi plane escorted by the presidential plane. He is on his way to the (presidential) villa now,” one government source said.

Nigerian government and presidency officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yar’Adua has been receiving treatment for pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart that can restrict normal beating, and is also known to suffer from a chronic kidney condition.

The political implications of his return from Saudi Arabia will depend on the state of his health.

Jonathan could continue as acting president until such time as Yar’Adua’s health recovers and he is fit enough to resume office. Should his condition be so serious as to render him incapable of holding office, he could step aside, allowing Jonathan to be sworn in as leader and name a new deputy.

Either way, new elections are due in Nigeria by April next year and few expect Yar’Adua to stand for a second term.

Neither the presidency, the ruling party nor the cabinet has given any details on his health since shortly after he left, fuelling speculation about the gravity of his condition.

A delegation of Nigerian ministers travelled to Saudi Arabia on Monday for an update on his health and had been expected to report back to a weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

An official at Jeddah airport told Reuters two planes had left Saudi Arabia late on Tuesday, one carrying the president and the other carrying a delegation of Nigerian officials.
 

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