Nigerians on Friday anxiously awaited military ruler Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar's new plan to restore democracy, and presidency officials said it could emerge very soon.

"We are on standby here," one presidency official told Reuters in the capital Abuja. "That means a broadcast could take place today or over the weekend. We don't yet know the exact time the head of state will speak."Oil-producing Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, was thrown into political confusion by the deaths only weeks apart of former ruler Sani Abacha and detained opposition presidential claimant Moshood Abiola, presumed to have won 1993 polls annulled by the military.

Officials said Abubakar met with a core committee of Nigeria's ruling generals on Thursday, a meeting set up to find the best way through the minefield of political and ethnic demands that bar the way to civilian rule.

The presidency has been innundated with petitions from interest groups on what they would like in the latest of many schemes to bring elected, civilian government to the multiethnic country.

Opposition and pro-democracy groups based in Abiola's Yoruba southwest are demanding a government of national unity of respected civilians to replace the military and hold new elections.