The Nigerian army has restated its loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari in a bid to downplay fears of a possible coup d'etat in the country while the head of state is on medical leave. Buhari, 74, is in the UK, for the second time since the beginning of 2017, for medical check-ups.

Earlier this month, the army warned it had received information that "some individuals have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons". The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, urged soldiers to abstain themselves from being involved in the country's politics.

As fears of a coup continued to spread, the director of Defence Information, John Enenche, said in a statement on 24 May that the army remained "totally loyal" to Buhari.

"The armed forces are totally loyal to the Commander-In-Chief, and are in complete subordination to civil authorities," Enenche said, according to the Premium Times.

"We are out there administering our troops to remain focused and be conscious of oath of allegiance that we have taken and are guided by the constitution of this country at all levels of command. I want to reassure the general public that there is nothing like that (coup) and nothing like that will ever be supported, will ever be encouraged. And should there be a sign of anything like that, there are extant and guiding rules and regulations which we normally follow," the statement continued.

Buhari spent nearly two months on medical leave in London earlier this year. He left again on 7 May, handing over powers to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Buhari's medical trips, and mystery surrounding his medical condition, is sparking speculation on his health and the future of one of Africa's largest economies.

Analysts have previously warned Buhari's prolonged abscence could spark a power struggle ahead of the 2019 presidential elections, should the leader become incapacitated.

Analysts told IBTimes UK a coup is possible but unlikely. However, there are fears politicians loyal to Buhari, a Muslim from the north, could obstruct Osinbajo, a Christian from the south.

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