Nigeria is preparing for a crucial presidential election on Saturday
ABUJA, Nigeria — Officials rushed to prepare polling stations on Friday, the eve of Nigeria’s crucial election, amid fresh concerns about vote-buying after police said a lawmaker was arrested with nearly $500,000 in cash and a distribution list.
According to Mahmood Yakubu, the head of Nigeria’s Electoral Commission, election workers in some parts of Imo state have resigned due to fears of separatists targeting polling stations in the southeast.
The last-minute developments come as Nigerians prepare to cast their ballots in the parliamentary and presidential elections on Saturday. The government indicated on Thursday that it will not postpone the vote at the last minute, as in 2019, when the postponement was announced on the morning of the election. The 2014 vote was also scheduled for later.
Concerns remain about how Nigeria’s current cash crunch will affect voter turnout. While the national currency, the naira, was impossible for many Nigerians to obtain, police said at least one representative had plenty of US dollars on hand.
Authorities questioned Chinyere Igwe, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, after he was found around 2 a.m. with money in a bag and a distribution list in his car, Rivers state police spokeswoman Grace Iringe-Koko said. Carrying undeclared cash over $10,000 is prohibited in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, authorities in Kano state announced the arrest of more than 60 “suspected thugs with dangerous weapons” after supporters of political parties clashed on Thursday. Local media reported that one person died as a result of the violence.
Eighteen candidates are vying to replace incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who is leaving after his second and final term in office.
Three frontrunners emerged, including Bola Tinubu of the ruling party and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition party. Most of the polls favored Peter Obi, a third-party hope.
The vote will be closely watched as Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and one of the continent’s biggest oil producers. According to UN estimates, by 2050, Nigeria will tie with the United States as the third most populous nation in the world after India and China.
The election comes amid a currency shortage in Africa’s most populous country, raising concerns about whether it will affect voter turnout. Authorities announced the switch to the new naira banknote in November, but the change led to a shortage of banknotes across the country.
At the same time, doubts have been raised about the ability of Nigerian authorities to curb the influence of money in the country’s elections.
Monitoring groups have documented political parties paying between 500 naira ($1.09) and 5,000 naira ($10.90) to people willing to vote for their candidates. This tactic is being used amid high unemployment and poverty rates in the country.
“Vote buying remains a serious threat to our democracy,” Mahmood Yakubu, head of Nigeria’s electoral commission, told reporters on Thursday.
The use of mobile phones is prohibited in polling stations in Nigeria, Yakubu said. Authorities introduced the ban to prevent voters taking photos of ballot papers as evidence in exchange for cash from political parties.
Associated Press reporter Ibrahim Garba reported in Kano, Nigeria.