Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Saturday in Ilorin, Kwara State, North-Central Nigeria, paraded 19 suspected vote buyers allegedly arrested during the Governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.
This is even as prominent Kwara State indigene and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described the 2023 polls as one of the most transparent and credible ever held in the country.
It would be recalled that Mohammed had on stepping down as Chief of Staff to then Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, vied for the position of Kwara State helmsman but got trounced at the polls.
While he may not have achieved his ambitions for his state, Mohammed remains a key political figure in the politics of Kwara, where his expressive self does not hesitate in digging in and holding on to his position, sometimes resulting in intra-party feuds and controversies.
On the arrested alleged vote-buying nine, the Acting Zonal Head of EFCC, Ilorin Zonal Office, Mr. Michael Nzekwe, said that the suspects were paraded at the Commission’s Zonal Head Office located at GRA, Ilorin.
Nzekwe said that the EFCC’s mandate was to ensure that money influence in politics was totally cut out and eradicated.
“The suspects were directly involved in vote-buying. We got credible intelligence and we acted on those intelligence.
“Some were arrested in Omu-Aran, Ilorin South and Ilorin West; we were all over the state,” Nzekwe said.
He added that investigation would commence immediately, and provisions of the law would be followed afterwards.
“Though, they were picked in different locations across the state with money and Point of Sales (PoS) machines found in their possession, but we will carry out further investigation.
“We are an agency set up by law and we will strictly go with the provisions of the law after we have concluded investigation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister had awarded the nation’s 2023 General Elections high marks on Saturday in his hometown, Oro, near Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, while speaking with journalists after casting his vote in the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
Mohammed reportedly voted at about 9:45 AM at Polling Unit 006, Oro Ward 2 in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara.
Justifying his assertion, he said that the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was a gamechanger in tackling the issues of multiple accreditations, voting and rigging.
“With what I have observed both in the February 25 and today’s elections, there has been a remarkable improvement in the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
“Without any doubt, the introduction of BVAS has been a game changer in the sense that with BVAS, you are able to get the actual number of people who are accredited.
“Also, with BVAS, it is now not possible for you to vote twice because your biometric and facial are captured.
“That explained why though INEC said there were 84 million voters in Nigeria, the last election showed that only about 24 million people cast their votes,’’ he said.
The Minister said that, in spite of the obvious improvements in the electoral process, he was worried about the red herring that trailed the outcomes of the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
According to him, most of the issues being raised about the credibility of INEC in conducting the polls were distractive.
He posited that the electoral law does not recognises electronic voting, while the decision of a Federal High Court in Abuja gives INEC the power to determine the manner it collates and transmits election results.
Mohammed said that he was happy that some of the aggrieved parties in the concluded elections had approached the court to ventilate their grievances.
He, however, berated the activities of some non-state actors making analyses and propositions, which, according to him, were incendiary and injurious to the harmonious and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.
The Minister said that the activities of some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) had also allegedly been very unhelpful, noting that many of them came out to unjustifiably discredit INEC and set one ethnic group and religion against the other.
He said that the media should also be circumspect of what they report on the elections and must show professionalism in discharge of their duties.
“What we noticed is that some media houses had taken position for one candidate, and this makes rubbish of most of the analyses we see on their platforms,’’ he said.
The Minister said that the regulators of the media, particularly the broadcast media were doing their best by issuing warnings and fines where applicable.
He lamented that many of the broadcast stations that were fined allegedly had refused to comply and pay up, but rather dared the regulator.
He said that the intention of the broadcast stations was allegedly to provoke the regulator to shut down their stations and, by so doing, getting to label the government of stifling press freedom.
The Minister assured that the regulators would not rest on their oars in the discharge of their constitutional duty of ensuring that the right things were done in the media industry.
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