LAGOS, Nigeria — A Nigerian high court Thursday placed in jeopardy Saturday's first presidential poll in a decade after a group of former politicians and wealthy merchants applied to have the election canceled.
The group, the Assn. for a Better Nigeria (ABN), called for military President Ibrahim Babangida to stay four more years to tackle deep social and economic ills.
The court's ruling in Abuja, Nigeria's federal capital, ordered the military government's electoral commission to scrap the elections.
Justice Bassey Ikpeme ruled that ABN's claims of campaign irregularities by the country's two political parties are justifiable.
But Vice President Augustus Aikhomu, a retired admiral, said last week that no court has the power to prevent the first presidential elections since mid-1983 from taking place.
Lawyers at the Abuja court said after the hearing that the electoral commission and the government are likely to appeal Thursday's ruling. If the appeal is successful, the election could go ahead.
Thursday's order stunned many Nigerians, some of whom had viewed the transition to civil rule--already delayed three times--as a ploy to extend army control in a nation hurt by deep-rooted ethnic and sectarian rivalries since independence in 1960.