Nigeria MP arrested with nearly $500,000 before election

Chinyere Igwe was found travelling with the money and a distribution list, police say a day before Nigerian elections.

nigeria election
The arrest came a day before the country's presidential and parliamentary elections [Sunday Alamba/AP Photo]

Police in Nigeria have arrested a member of parliament who was allegedly carrying almost $500,000 in cash in a battleground state a day before the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections, raising concerns about the influence of money in the vote.

Chinyere Igwe, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, was on Friday found travelling with the money inside a bag in his car at approximately 2am (01:00 GMT) along with a distribution list, Rivers state police spokesperson Grace Iringe-Koko said.

It is illegal to move undeclared cash of more than $10,000 in Nigeria. Authorities were interrogating the legislator, Iringe-Koko said.

Nigeria’s electoral commission, meanwhile, has suspended the senatorial election in southeastern Enugu, where the opposition Labour Party candidate was killed, the commission’s chairman Mahmood Yakubu said.

One opposition party candidate and the driver of a campaign minibus belonging to another party were killed in a series of coordinated attacks in Enugu State on Thursday, police said.

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.

Shortage of currency

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.

Source: News Agencies