ABUJA — Nigeria's president, hospitalised abroad for the past 44 days, spoke on the phone with key officials, government officials said Wednesday after growing concern over his health status.
"The only update I have about the president's health is that the vice president told us at the cabinet meeting that he spoke with Mr President briefly at about 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) yesterday" (Tuesday), Information Minister Dora Akunyili told reporters.
President Umaru Yar'Adua was on November 23 flown to Faisal hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for treatment of acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane covering the heart.
Since he left, Yar'Adua has not spoken publicly. But his aides have repeatedly said he was reponding well to his treatment.
Earlier Wednesday, the president's chief economic adviser Taminu Yakubu, who has said is in regular contact with Yar'Adua, told local media the head of state was improving.
"The president's health has substantially improved," Yakubu was quoted as telling ThisDay newspaper.
He said Yar'Adua also spoke to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives earlier this week.
His prolonged absence and a lack of official medical information have sparked widespread speculation about his successor and triggered a series of litigation for him to delegate authority to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to avoid a power vacuum.
One rights group wants him declared missing.
The opposition has demanded video evidence of Yar'Adua to quash rumours that his health condition is worsening.
But Yakubu said when he spoke to Yar'Adua this week he wanted the attorney general to push for the passage of an anti-terrorism bill currently at the Senate.
"He said he would like it to be the first bill he assents to on his return to Nigeria," said Yakubu to ThisDay and The Guardian newspaper.
He did not say when the 58-year-old was likely to return.
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