West News Wire: A day before the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections, police in Nigeria detained a member of parliament who was allegedly carrying close to $500,000 in cash in a key state, raising questions about the effect of money on the poll.
The money and a distribution list were discovered in Chinyere Igwe’s car on Friday at 2 am (01:00 GMT), according to Rivers state police spokesperson Grace Iringe-Koko. Igwe is a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives.
Moving unregistered cash worth more than $10,000 is prohibited in Nigeria. Iringe-Koko said that the politician was being questioned by authorities.
Mahmood Yakubu, the head of Nigeria’s electoral commission, announced that the senatorial race in southeast Enugu, where the opposition Labour Party candidate was assassinated, had been put on hold.
Separately, authorities in Kano State announced the arrests of more than 60 “suspected thugs with dangerous weapons” after supporters of political parties clashed on Thursday. Local media reported one person was burned to death in the clashes.
Nigerian voters will head to the polls on Saturday to select a new president following the second and final term of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. They will also elect a new national legislature.
Three front-runners have emerged from a field of 18 presidential candidates, including the governing party’s Bola Tinubu and the main opposition party’s Atiku Abubakar. Most polls have favoured Peter Obi, a third-party hopeful.
The election comes amid a currency shortage in Africa’s most populous nation, raising concerns about whether it will affect voter turnout. Authorities announced the switch to a new note of official currency naira in November, but the switch has led to shortfalls of bank notes nationwide.
At the same time, there have been doubts about the ability of Nigerian authorities to curb the influence of money in the country’s elections.
Observer groups have documented political parties making payments ranging from 500 naira ($1.08) to 10,000 naira ($10.8) to people willing to vote for their candidates, a tactic used amid high unemployment and poverty rates in the country.
“Vote buying remains a major threat to our democracy,” Mahmood Yakubu, the head of Nigeria’s election commission, told reporters Thursday.
The use of mobile phones is prohibited at Nigeria’s voting stations, Yakubu said. Authorities introduced the ban to counter voters photographing ballots as evidence in exchange for cash from political parties.