Nigeria court upholds presidential election

Nigeria’s Supreme Court upheld the election of President Umaru Yar’Adua on Friday, giving him the mandate to lead Africa’s most populous nation through a global financial crisis and tumbling oil prices.

The court rejected challenges from his two closest rivals in last year’s polls who, along with foreign and local observers, alleged widespread vote-rigging in the April 2007 election.

”In sum, this appeal failed and is dismissed. Accordingly, Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan are the president and vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” said Supreme Court Justice Niki Tobi.

The widely expected decision ends nearly two years of legal wrangling that has limited Yar’Adua’s authority and unnerved foreign investors in sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy.

”I don’t think it [the court case] has been a huge impediment, but it has been a distraction,” said Matthew Pearson, head of Africa equity research at Renaissance Capital.

”The ruling will allow him to focus more closely on implementing his reforms.”

With his legal challenges behind him, Yar’Adua will confront growing pressure to fulfil his campaign promises such as fixing the country’s shoddy power sector and improving security in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Yar’Adua’s critics believe he has moved too slowly on reforms, pointing to the long delays in drafting a 2009 budget, choosing a new Cabinet and revamping the energy sector.

The president must also manage an economy largely untouched by the global financial crisis, but facing slower growth due to plummeting oil prices.

Some 80% of government revenues come from the nation’s oil sector.

The court said former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, the two main opposition presidential candidates last year, failed to provide enough evidence to prove that the April 2007 vote was too flawed to be credible.

The election led to the first handover of power from one civilian leader to another in Africa’s most populous nation and top oil producer.

Nigeria, scarred by decades of corrupt dictatorship and military rule since independence from Britain in 1960, returned to civilian government in 1999. — Reuters

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