The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Saturday said its personnel on a patrol against vote buying recovered heavy bags of cash belonging to the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Emmanuel Jime.
The anti-graft office said its detectives were violently confronted during the recovery process, with their vehicles smashed.
“A man was caught with large bags containing lots of money. While trying to arrest him, officers of the Commission were attacked and vehicles vandalised. Information gathered confirms that the money belongs to Emmanuel Jimeh, the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in Benue State,” the EFCC said in a statement Saturday afternoon.
Mr Jime is participating in the governorship election underway across Benue and dozens of other states Saturday.
The APC candidate is slugging it out with Samuel Orton, the incumbent governor seeking reelection under the Peoples Democratic Party.
The EFCC said the recovery came in North Bank, a major suburb of Makurdi, the state capital. Mr Jime voted in the area on Saturday morning.
A spokesperson for Mr Jime denied his principal’s links to the money, saying he left the area shortly after voting there and was not aware of whatever might have transpired afterwards.
The reports that Mr Jime owned the cash was “flat out incorrect,” the candidate’s spokesperson, Joe Abuku, said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES. “We are not aware of any arrest or incident as described in these reports.”
The confirmation by the EFCC followed PREMIUM TIMES’ posting of a video showing the recovery of the vast wads of N500 notes on Saturday.
The EFCC deployed its personnel across the country to monitor voting fields in this election cycle, following alarming rates of vote-buying witnessed in governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States last July and September, respectively.
The vote-for-cash scheme had been deemed problematic for social and economic development in a country nurturing its democratic credentials.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also expressed concerns that paying voters to sway elections by politicians was undermining democracy. It called on the EFCC and other law enforcement authorities to beam their searchlight on such acts in this year’s elections.
Asides violating the electoral laws, movement of huge stash of cash outside the regulated financial system could potentially violate laws against money laundering.
The recovery in Benue State was only one of several interceptions the EFCC has claimed credits for today alone. There have been reports of recoveries in other states, including Kwara and the capital Abuja.