LONDON -- Nigeria's 4-year-old civilian government was overthrown today in a bloodless coup staged by military officers who said 'inept and corrupt' leadership had left Africa's most populous nation in a grave economic crisis, the British Broadcasting Co. said.
The BBC, monitoring Lagos Radio, said a senior army officer, Brigadier Sanaa Abacha, went on the air at 3:30 a.m. EST to announce the takeover of President Shehu Shagari's government, which was overwhelmingly returned to office in August elections.
Abacha said the coup had been carried out bloodlessly by the new 'federal military government,' which suspended the constitution and banned all political parties, the BBC said.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed, and all airports, seaports and border crossings were closed.
The president and other federal and state government officials were given seven days to vacate their official residences and report to police stations, the BBC said.
The BBC said Lagos airport had been closed, most radio stations were taken off the air, and international phone links were severed. However, reports from Lagos described the country as quiet, with roads open.
'The brigadier said the people were living witnesses to the uncertainty which an inept and corrupt leadership had imposed on the country for the past four years. He said the economy had been hopelessly mismanaged,' the BBC said, quoting its Lagos Radio monitors.
In Washington, a state Department spokesman said the U.S. Embassy in Lagos had monitored the announcements of the coup but had no further comment.
Abacha, addressing the nation for the new 'federal military government,' strongly criticized the economic performance of Shagari's civilian administration, which only Thursday presented a stringent 1984 budget to the nation, the BBC said.
'Brigadier Abacha spoke of grave economic problems and said he and his colleagues in the armed forces had decided to change the leadership and form a federal military government,' the BBC said, quoting Lagos Radio.
'He said the people were living under intolerable conditions. There was not enough food at reasonable prices, health services were in a shambles and hospitals had to work without drugs and equipment.'
There was no word on the fate of Shagari, who took power in 1979 when the military stepped down voluntarily after 13 years of rule.
Shagari was returned to office in August by 2.5 million voters in an election considered a crucial test for one of Africa's few remaining multi-party democracies.
Dozens of people died in election violence and charges of vote-rigging were thrown at Shagari by his five opposition party opponents.
The main campaign issue was Shagari's handling of the economy, which is on the verge of bankruptcy because of the world oil glut. Development projects have been halted and the import of most luxury goods have been stopped to save the $1 billion of foreign exchange that left the country in 1983.
When Shagari took office, Nigeria was booming because of high oil prices and expanding production. The country had more than $12 billion in its coffers.
But as prices started to drop in 1981 and the Organization of Oil Producing Countries tightened production quotas, Nigeria's oil revenues fell from $26 billion a year to under $10 billion. The country's oil revenues account for 90 percent of its exports earnings,
Nigeria's 1983 budget deficit was almost double the projected figures -- at $8.2 billion -- and the country is trying to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund for a $2.5 billion.
Total estimated revenues to the government from both oil and non-oil sectors wa only $8.39 billion in 1983.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with more than 90 million people, was ruled by Britian from 1861 until it achieved independence on Oct. 1, 1960 and became a republic Oct. 1, 1963. It has a Moslem majority and 250 distinct tribal groups.
Nigeria is America's second most important source of imported oil.