The Nigerian Senate [official website] on Wednesday voted 85-0 to pass revisions [text] to the Nigerian Constitution [text] that would clarify the exercise of executive authority in the absence of the president. The constitutional revisions would require the president to inform the National Assembly [official website] in writing of any absence from office within 21 days, during which time the vice president would become acting president until the president returns. Under the revisions, if the president does not inform the National Assembly of an absence within 21 days, the assembly can vote to allow the vice president to take over as acting president. The constitutional revisions would also change federal election law. It would remove a provision of the constitution that disallowed people who had been charged with fraud from standing for election, and would require candidates for federal office to have a degree beyond secondary education. Additionally, it would require that election complaints be filed within 21 days of the release of the official results. The revisions have been approved by the House of Representatives [official website] and now must be approved by 24 of the 36 state legislatures before taking effect. Senate President David Mark [official profile] has said that he will be meeting with the leaders of the state legislatures [Nigeria Independent report] in order to expedite the ratification of the constitutional revisions.
Last month, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC obituary] died after suffering from a prolonged illness. His death formally transferred the presidency to then vice president Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile], who had been acting president since February [JURIST report] when the parliament voted for him to take over. In January, a Nigerian court ruled that Yar'Adua was not required [JURIST report] to formally transfer his powers to Jonathan or any other interim leader. Also in January, the court ordered [JURIST report] Nigeria's cabinet to pass a resolution within 14 days on whether Yar'Adua was capable of running the country. Yar'Adua traveled to Saudi Arabia in November for medical treatment without naming an interim leader, touching off a constitutional crisis.