Gambia's Supreme Court will not be able to hear a petition on the presidential election filed by outgoing President Yahya Jammeh for several months. Jammeh, who lost to Adama Barrow in a vote held in December 2016, initially conceded defeat.

However, he now intends to contest the election result at the apex court due to what he says are "unacceptable abnormalities".

"We can only hear this matter when we have a full bench of the Supreme Court," Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle was quoted as AFP as saying.

Pointing out that the extra judges needed to hear the case were not available, he said the court will hear the case in May, or November.

Jammeh, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, is expected to step down on 18 January, when his term expires. However, the leader said he would resist pressure to leave office until the court hears his case.

In December, west African leaders led by Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari met Jammeh and urged him to accept defeat. The leaders, who left without managing to secure a deal, are expected to meet Jammeh again in the capital Banjul on 11 January.

President-elect Barrow – head of a coalition of opposition parties and member of the United Democratic Party (UDP) – told IBTimes UK he considered himself the "rightful leader" of the country. He is due to be sworn-in on 19 January.

Jammeh's U-turn has sent shock waves across in Gambia and across the region, with growing tensions exacerbated by the chief of the army's decision to pledge loyalty to Jammeh instead of Barrow.

Meanwhile, the head of Economic Community Of West African States (Ecowas) has claimed that a military intervention to remove Jammeh was "possible" and that "stand-by forces" – likely led by Senegal – were on alert and would be deployed "to restore the people's wish".

Jammeh's decision followed an admission by Gambia's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that it had erred during vote counting, and Barrow's margin of victory had narrowed from 9% to 4%.

Despite the changes, the commission insists that the new tally leaves the outcome of the election unchanged. with Barrow receiving 43.3% of the vote, and Jammeh 39.6%.