Nigeria court defers ruling on presidential vote

Nigeria’s Supreme Court on Thursday deferred ruling on a challenge to President Umaru Yar’Adua’s April 2007 election victory, but did not set a date for handing down its final judgement.

Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Yar’Adua’s main challengers in last year’s polls, have appealed to the Supreme Court to annul his victory in an election deemed flawed by foreign and local observers.

The legal wrangling over the vote has undermined Yar’Adua’s first 17 months in office, preventing him from exercising his full authority, contributing to a stagnation in government decision making and unnerving foreign investors.

After hearing final submissions from Buhari’s counsel, Chief Justice Idris Kutigi said judgement was ”reserved”, meaning the court will make its ruling on a date to be announced later.

”We urge you to dismiss this appeal for lacking in substance,” Yar’Adua’s lawyer, Wole Olanikpekun, told the court.

The hearing of Abubakar’s appeal continues.

Should the court find against Yar’Adua in either case, both he and Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan would have to stand down for a new election to be held within three months.

The court is broadly expected to uphold Yar’Adua’s victory, a verdict that analysts hope would trigger a more dynamic second phase of his rule. — Reuters

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