Nigerian President to Resume Duties After 7-week Medical Leave

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says he plans to resume work on Monday, after a seven-week leave for medical treatment abroad.

Buhari flew back to Nigeria on Friday and addressed the nation for the first time since going to London on January 19.

In his speech, the president said he will write to Nigeria’s National Assembly to inform lawmakers of his return and his intention to resume his duties.

The statement clarified earlier remarks in which Buhari said he came back on the weekend so he could rest while the vice president remained in charge.

Buhari had transferred power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo shortly before departing the country. The move that tamped down fears about the direction of Africa’s most populous nation and avoided a repeat of the crisis in 2009, when President Umaru Yar’Adua was absent for months without conferring power to his deputy.

Buhari was flown to the Nigerian city of Kaduna Friday morning, then taken by helicopter to the capital, Abuja, where he was greeted by Osinbajo and top military commanders as he stepped off the aircraft.

In his comments, Buhari did not disclose his illness, though he mentioned getting blood transfusions during his seven-week stay in London.

He told Nigerians he is feeling “much better” but may need follow-up care within the next few weeks.

Buhari was not seen in public during his seven weeks in London, except in photos that showed him meeting with visitors. The Nigerian presidency has declined to say what ails the 74-year-old president, who has looked increasingly thin.

Serious illness presumed

SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based risk management firm, says Nigerians deserve to know more.

“We believe that President Buhari should have come clean on his health status to Nigerians, stayed put in London, listened to the advice of his doctors, and catered to his health.  No office is worth the life of any Nigerian, including when that Nigerian is the president,” the company wrote in a statement.

Paul Alaje, senior economist at SPM professionals firm in Abuja, says if Buhari returns to his duties, he will need to solve the country’s economic problems. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, but revenues have dropped sharply because of the global slump in oil prices, causing a recession.

Alaje said he would give Osinbajo a 60 percent score on his performance as acting president.

He also said Buhari should explain his illness.

“It’s a good thing that we have the president back. Many people believed he was dead. Some thought he was incapacitated,” said Alaje. “So, his return puts all those rumors to rest.  … [But] if the president is still resting, then he needs to tell us what is actually wrong. The president is no longer a private citizen. We, the Nigerian people, need to know what exactly is wrong with the president.”

Chika Oduah in Abuja and Umar Farouk Mousa contributed to this report.

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