Nigerian minister slams plotters

LAGOS - A Nigerian cabinet minister says president's Umaru Yar'Adua return has stoked confusion about a group of plotters around the ailing leader that is seeking to benefit from the uncertainty to maintain influence.

LAGOS - A Nigerian cabinet minister says president's Umaru Yar'Adua return has stoked confusion about a group of plotters around the ailing leader that is seeking to benefit from the uncertainty to maintain influence.

The arrival last week of Yar'Adua after three months in hospital has raised fears of a power struggle between his allies and his deputy Goodluck Jonathan, who took over as acting president almost three weeks ago.

"The cabal (around Yar'Adua) wants to continue with their usual statement of 'the president said and you must comply'," information minister Dora Akunyili was quoted in ThisDay newspaper yesterday.

She said they issued orders "even when the president did not say so".

Jonathan assumed powers on February 9, allowing him to implement an amnesty for rebels in the Niger Delta, restore power supplies and prepare for elections.

Renewed uncertainty over Nigeria's leadership could again hold up decision making and risk a return to attacks by militants who have in the past shut as much of a third of the Opec member's oil output capacity.

Britain and the US have voiced concern that Yar'Adua's arrival could lead to government deadlock.

Akunyili said she would continue to take instructions from Jonathan and would take orders from Yar'Adua only once he had returned to work. She said she would not follow orders from his aides.

Jonathan has shown efforts to calm fears of rivalry within the presidency.

But he has yet to see Yar'Adua, to whom access in ICU is guarded by his wife Turai. - Reuters

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