Nigeria's House of Representatives has approved a motion to grant asylum to Gambia's strongman Yahya Jammeh as long as he steps down when his term expires on 18 January. The incumbent president is refusing to relinquish power after defeat in presidential elections held in December 2016.

Jammeh, who lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow, initially conceded defeat. However, he now intends to contest the election result at the Supreme Court due to what he claims are "unacceptable abnormalities".

Barrow told IBTimes UK he considered himself the "rightful leader" of the country. He is due to be sworn in on 19 January.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has not yet commented on the motion approved by the senate, which is not binding on the government.

Buhari and other West African leaders are to meet Jammeh in Gambia's capital Banjul on 13 January to convince him to give up power.

Some claim that granting asylum to Jammeh could help leaders persuade the strongman to leave office and allow a peaceful transition of power.

However, critics of the motion maintain it will signal leaders like Jammeh – long accused of human rights abuses – can avoid prosecution.

Jammeh, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, said he would resist pressure to leave office until the apex court hears his case, which is now expected to happen in May or even November, due to lack of judges available to hear the case.

Fears he might not give up power were further compounded on Thursday (12 January) when Jammeh's party – Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) – filed a request with the Supreme Court seeking to block Barrow's inauguration.

Aziz Bensouda, the secretary general of the Gambia Bar Association (BAR), warned that an injunction would be unconstitutional.

"The inauguration of the president-elect should be held when Jammeh's term officially ends. The court does not have any mandate to put an inauguration on hold," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

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

In December, Marcel Alain de Souza, the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), 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 wishes".