ABUJA, Nigeria — The Nigerian presidential election, the first in a decade in Africa's most populous country, will go ahead today as planned despite a court ruling ordering a postponement, officials said Friday.
" . . . I wish to restate that the presidential election scheduled for tomorrow . . . will go on as planned," Humphrey Nwosu, chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), told a news conference in Abuja, Nigeria's federal capital.
Nwosu's announcement appeared to put Nigeria's program for the return of civilian rule back on track and ended a day of high political drama.
The United States earlier had told Nigeria, a key African ally and oil supplier, that it would be gravely concerned by any further delay in the return to civilian rule.
The Nigerian government Friday asked Washington to withdraw Michael O'Brien, director of the U.S. Information Agency office in Lagos, within 72 hours. It accused him of "blatant interference."
Nigerians had waited anxiously for the reply by the NEC, a creation of the country's military rulers, to the Abuja high court which ordered today's election postponed.
The court ruled Thursday night that the first presidential poll since 1983 should wait until the full hearing of a petition by a group wanting President Ibrahim Babangida to stay in power until 1997.
But the NEC chairman said the court order was overruled by the provisions of a military decree issued this year which said no court has the power to stop an election.
Running for president are Moshood Abiola and Bashir Tofa, multimillionaire Muslim businessmen in army-created parties that have weathered three delays in Babangida's protracted civil rule program.