Nigeria says president returns after weeks on medical leave

AP , Friday 10 Mar 2017

President Muhammadu Buhari
File Photo: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (Photo: Reuters)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has returned to the country after a medical leave of a month and a half that raised questions about his health and some calls for his replacement.

The government tweeted his arrival in the capital, Abuja, on Friday morning. Photos from his arrival showed the president smiling and walking without assistance.

Few details have been released about Buhari's medical leave in London. When he left Nigeria on Jan. 19, the government said it was for routine medical checkups and that he would return in early February.

Instead, the 74-year-old remained out of sight for weeks while anxiety rose in Africa's most populous nation, which is grappling with crises including Boko Haram extremist attacks and an economy that last year contracted for the first time in a quarter-century.

Some expressed anger at taxpayer-funded treatment for top officials overseas while people at home cope with poorly funded health care. Others suggested that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a 59-year-old lawyer and pastor who handled matters in Buhari's absence, should stay on and lead the country, which is one of Africa's largest economies and top oil producers

A statement Thursday from special adviser Femi Adesina said Buhari's "holiday" had been extended on doctors' recommendations for further testing and rest. It gave no details about the health of the president.

The statement also said Buhari expressed appreciation for Nigerians who have "prayed fervently" for him during his absence.

During his long absence, Buhari spoke once by phone with President Donald Trump as the new U.S. leader reached out to a couple of Africa's largest economies.

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