, ABUJA, Feb 9 – Nigeria\’s senate on Tuesday voted to suspend ailing President Umaru Yar\’Adua from office and hand power to his deputy until he is well enough to resume.
The senate agreed "that the Vice President Dr Goodluck Ebere Jonathan shall henceforth discharge the functions of the office of president, commander in chief of the armed forces of the federation, as acting president".
The lower house of parliament was preparing a vote on the issue later Tuesday.
The president has spent 78 days in hospital in Saudi Arabia for treatment for a serious heart condition, plunging one of Africa\’s biggest oil exporters into a political turmoil.
Opposition leaders have accused the government of covering up the seriousness of the 58-year-old\’s illness, claiming his continued absence has stalled crucial government business.
Nigeria\’s constitution demands that the vice president assumes full presidential powers when a president informs parliament of his absence from office.
Yar\’Adua has not written to the legislature. However, the senate said it based its decision on a BBC interview with the president on January 12 saying he would return to work once his doctors cleared him.
"The BBC interview granted by the president is as good as the letter envisaged in the constitution because if you go onto the Internet, you will see a copy of what he said," Senate president David Mark said.