Abiola and military set for showdown

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LAGOS (Reuter) - Armed Nigerian police took up position yesterday near the Lagos home of Moshood Abiola, the undeclared winner of last year's cancelled election who plans to defy the military government and take the oath as president.

Mr Abiola has said he will be sworn in as president today or tomorrow, the first anniversary of the election he won but which was annulled by the former military president, Ibrahim Babangida.

One truck and an armoured vehicle loaded with armed policemen were early yesterday stationed near Mr Abiola's home. An aide to Mr Abiola, speaking by telephone from the businessman's home in the Ikeja suburb of Lagos, said Mr Abiola was safe and had not been arrested.

The government of the military ruler, Sani Abacha, arrested a leading pro-democracy campaigner, Beko-Ransome Kuti, on Thursday. It has warned Mr Abiola not to form a government, saying this would amount to treason.

Tension is rising in Lagos and other cities in Mr Abiola's south-west region as the election anniversary looms in a country with a history of political violence. The Campaign for Democracy (CD) pressure group, which last year organised protests that helped oust General Babangida, has called street demonstrations for next week to end military rule.

The government has since last week arrested several pro-democracy activists and former elected senators and state governors who have demanded that General Abacha resign. The National Democratic Coalition, the alliance spearheading the campaign to force General Abacha to step down, said it was pressing ahead with its plans.