The Federal Government has commenced the payment of salaries of workers under its employment to enable easy movement across the country for the February 23 and March 9 elections.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the idea is to cushion the effect of last Saturday’s election postponement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“On the part of the Federal Government also, we decided that to make it easy for those who will want to go back to vote, salary payment started yesterday (Tuesday) as opposed to the normal 25th of every month. This is just to ease the burden of people who want to go back and cast their vote,” Mohammed said.
Several Nigerians had travelled to different parts of the country with the hope of casting their votes, but returned disappointed.
Addressing State House Correspondents yesterday, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Information commended the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Aero Contractors and Arik Air for their decision to also slash prices to encourage voters’ return to their various stations and cast their votes.
“Also, the NURTW, which has about two million members and who operate motor parks in all 774 local government areas of the country, an affiliate of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) with members cutting across drivers, busboys, motor parks operators etc., have offered to provide discounts to travellers using their motor parks and members who are looking to travel to their respective voting points.
“This discount is also to encourage voters who would have normally been disenfranchised as a result of INEC’s postponement. This discount is also valid between the 21st and 25th of February.
“Arik and Aero airlines have also thrown in their own incentives. Aero contractors have offered 50 per cent discount to all travellers who present their permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) at the purchasing point. Arik will be selling their one way ticket at N16,000 to any destination across the country. This is to support Nigerians who want to travel to cast their vote. The discount is valid between the 18th of February and the 11th of March.”
Meanwhile, the FEC has thrown its weight behind the directive by President Buhari to the military and other security agencies to be ruthless against ballot box snatchers during the forthcoming elections.
Buhari had, on Monday at the caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, warned political thugs nursing the idea of ballot snatching to do so, at the risk of their lives.
While the President’s comments have been criticised by stakeholders, INEC has since differed on the orders during the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections, explaining that the commission would stand by the Electoral Act which “states that persons who snatch election materials are liable to a prison term of two years or maximum fine of N500,000.”
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu insisted that “the position of the commission is that all violators of the Electoral Act should be punished according to the provisions of the Electoral Act.”
Speaking on the outcome of FEC meeting, the Information Minister said: “Absolutely. I mean if you want to intimidate voters to steal the mandate of the people, you should be able to face the wrath of the law.”