By NBF News
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Nigerian activists have been calling for Maurice Iwu to be replaced

Nigeria's acting President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the much criticised election chief to step down ahead of next year's polls.

The president's office said Maurice Iwu would leave with immediate effect.

Mr Iwu presided over the last election in 2007, which was widely seen as chaotic and fraudulent.

The US recently said it was doubtful Mr Iwu could organise a credible election next year and suggested he should be replaced.

The BBC's Caroline Duffield in Lagos says the outgoing election chief was a controversial figure and his departure will be popular with many Nigerians.

The country's newspapers are in celebratory mood, already using the word “sacked” to describe Mr Iwu's exit, she says.

Mr Jonathan said a civil servant would run the Independent National Election Commission (Inec) until a permanent replacement was found.

Mr Iwu's term as Inec chairman was due to end in June 2010.

Ebola cure claim
Mr Iwu has had a colourful career.
He once announced at a medical conference in the US that he had discovered the cure for the Ebola virus – a claim which later proved to be untrue.

In recent months, he has been seen as a political liability, says our correspondent.

Mr Jonathan is standing in for President Umaru Yar'Adua, who is sick and has not been seen in public since November 2009.

Mr Yar'Adua was elected in 2007, although legal challenges to the result lasted for months afterwards.