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15.01.2007 Nigeria

Nigeria court restores VP perks

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Nigeria's appeal court has ruled that privileges stripped from Vice-President Atiku Abubakar should be restored.

He lost his aides, official vehicles, security guards and use of the presidential jet last month after leaving the ruling party.

The Supreme Court is to decide whether he effectively resigned when he decided to stand as an opposition candidate in April"s presidential election.

But Mr Abubakar insists he is still the country's vice-president until then.

President Olusegun Obasanjo steps down in April after eight years in power.

The two men fell out last year when Mr Abubakar opposed plans to let the president run for a third term.

Mr Abubakar was suspended from the ruling People's Democratic Party in September after Nigeria's anti-corruption body accused him of fraudulently using $125m of public funds for personal business interests.

He denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.

In December, Mr Obasanjo interpreted his selection as the Action Congress's presidential candidate as resignation from the PDP, and therefore - under the Nigerian constitution - from the vice-presidency.

Earlier this week the head of the appeal court referred Mr Abubakar's case to the Supreme Court, saying it raised grave constitutional issues.

If he loses the case, he will also lose his immunity, leaving him open to possible arrest for alleged corruption.

April's polls should become the first transfer of power from one elected leader to another in Africa's most populous country since independence in 1960.

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