Tribunal rules for Nigerian president

ABUJA - A Nigerian election tribunal ruled in favour of President Umaru Yar'Adua in a dispute with the opposition. But his challengers vowed to appeal - sticking to the legal, peaceful route, perhaps a sign of maturing democracy in Africa.

ABUJA - A Nigerian election tribunal ruled in favour of President Umaru Yar'Adua in a dispute with the opposition. But his challengers vowed to appeal - sticking to the legal, peaceful route, perhaps a sign of maturing democracy in Africa.

In a three-hour oral judgment delivered on Tuesday in a packed and sweltering courtroom, the tribunal said that the petitions by former strongman Muhammadu Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar lacked evidence that fraud had materially affected the outcome of the April 21 vote.

The two opposition leaders have 21 days to file their appeal before the highest court in Africa's most-populous nation.

"We're going to the supreme court," Buhari declared after the decision.

If Yar'Adua were to lose on appeal, the Senate president would be in charge while organizing new elections within 90 days.

Last year's election saw power transfer from one elected civilian to another for the first time in Nigeria's coup-plagued history.

But thugs openly stole and stuffed ballot boxes and harassed voters. International observers said the vote was deeply flawed.

Many Nigerians say the elections demonstrated how weak the rule of law is in this west African nation of 140million people.

Still, the dispute over the vote has been peaceful and confined to the courts, unlike the violence that has followed a similar election dispute across the continent in Kenya.

There were no widespread riots or protests after the vote, though some believe that might eventually change.

Social ills such as crime and corruption are rampant in Nigeria. Most Nigerians are deeply pessimistic about the corrupt elites that hold sway in their country, and feel removed from the political sphere.

"What we have isn't democracy, demo-crazy," said Hammed Hassan Olajokum, a 51-year-old supporter of Buhari, who ruled Nigeria as a military dictator in the 1980s. "It's fraud, it's corrupt, it's unacceptable," he said after the ruling. -Sapa-AP

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