Thursday, July 9, 1998 Published at 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Abubakar appeals for calm
Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Nigeria
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Nigeria's new military ruler, General Abdulsalem Abubakar, has addressed the nation, which is angry and shaken following the death of the imprisoned opposition leader, Chief Moshood Abiola.
Chief Abiola died on Tuesday of an apparent heart attack just hours before he was due to be released.
The opposition leader was widely believed to be the winner of the country's 1993 elections. But he was imprisoned by the late General Sani Abacha, and spent four years in solitary confinement.
As news of Chief Abiola's death spread, at least 19 people were killed in rioting in Lagos and other parts of south-west Nigeria.
Nation 'facing critical times'
He offered his "heartfelt condolences" to Chief Abiola's family and said the millionaire-turned-politician was on the brink of being released from prison.
Gen Abubakar said the nation was facing "critical times" and urged Nigerians to remain calm. He said the nation's grief could not be assuaged by lawlessness or wanton destruction.
However, the Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku said he believed Gen Abubakar was on the verge of announcing a new timetable for restoring civilian rule.
Chief Anyaoku said that he had talked to Gen Abubakar on Tuesday evening and he described the Nigerian leader as "determined to usher in democracy."
However, the country's Provisional Ruling Council, the core of the ruling military regime, was left untouched.
Mystery surrounds death
Many of Chief Abiola's allies voiced suspicion over the manner of his death, and his daughter Wuru said she believed he had been killed.
She said: "(He died) either because medical neglect brought on a heart attack or because they poisoned him."
US President Bill Clinton dismissed speculation that the death was a result of foul play, and the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, called for calm.
Pictures released of Chief Abiola meeting Mr Annan last week showed him in apparent good health, although he had lost weight. He had suffered bouts of illness in jail.