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Protest in Nigeria for public appearance of ailing president

world Updated: Mar 11, 2010 14:47 IST

PTI
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Hundreds of protesters on Thursday converged at Nigerian capital Abuja, demanding the public appearance of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and the dissolution of the country's cabinet for failing to remove him.

58-year-old Yar'Adua was airlifted back to Nigeria a few weeks ago from Saudi Arabia where he was undergoing treatment for pericarditis but his health condition is not clear and he had not made any public appearance since then.

The protesters sought to present their petitions personally to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan but secretary to the government, Yayale Ahmed, assured them to convey their demand to Jonathan, who was attending a high-level international conference on Agriculture.

"The acting president has asked me to assure you that your demands will be looked into with immediate effect. You want to know the status of health of the president... You will not be denied of it," Ahmed said.

Yar'Adua's return has fuelled speculations that his inner cabinet wanted to render the acting president irrelevant and his wife Turai has been accused of running a cabal that undermined Jonathan.

Recently, Information Minister Professor Dora Akunyili criticised the president's inner cabinet of trying to make Jonathan "appear irrelevant".

The country's parliament had endorsed deputy President Jonathan as the acting President after it became obvious that Yar'Adua might take some time before he could run the government again.

However, the president did not transmit power by writing in the parliament as was required by Nigerian constitution.

Similar protests were held in Lagos and Abuja before the return of Yar'Adua.

'Save Nigeria Group', which led the protests, had announced their planned demonstration on various television stations and newspapers.

Police had assured them of protection.

"The security forces is here to protect you and will help you carry the message in a peaceful manner. We are not carrying tear gas or weapons," a top officer said.

In Nigeria, which witnessed communal clashes in which over 500 people lost their lives recently, protesters are often reluctant to embark on public protests due to the high-handed manner in which security agencies had handled them in the past.

It had often led to security agencies firing live bullets and killing protesters.