The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took a new twist yesterday as no fewer than five members of the National Working Committee (NWC) returned N151 million paid to them as two-year housing allowance.
The NWC members revealed this in separate letters dated September 29 and addressed to the national chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.
Those who returned the money are deputy national chairman South, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja; national woman leader, Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe; national vice chairman South-South, Chief Dan Osi Orbih; national vice chairman, South-East, Dr. Alli Odefa; and national vice chairman, South-West, Hon Olasoji Adagunobi-Oluwatukesi.
Although the deputy national secretary of the party, Hon Setonji Koshoedo, was also said to have made a refund as well, LEADERSHIP Friday was yet to see his letter unlike those of others.
However, they claimed that they decided to return the funds following a report in a national daily that monies were disbursed to silence NWC members over the alleged misappropriation of N15 billion belonging to the party.
The money, according to the women leader, was paid into their account on September 14, 2022.
Interestingly, all the NWC members who returned the money are from the southern part of the country and loyalists of the party leaders in the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike’s camp, which had withdrawn from the party’s presidential campaign council following the refusal of the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to resign.
The group had called on Ayu to resign to pave the way for a southern national chairman to make for geo-political balancing of the party’s leadership structure.
The return of the funds comes barely 24 hours after the party flagged off its presidential campaign in Abuja.
While Arapaja, in his letter dated September 28, 2022, and addressed to the national chairman, said he had returned to the party’s coffers the N36 million paid to him as housing allowance, the four others in their letters refunded N28.8 million each.
Arapaja in the letter said, “I observed a malicious story reported in The Nation newspaper of 26th September, 2022, where it was alleged that members of the National Working Committee were offered humongous amounts of money to silence us over an allegation of financial misappropriation to the tune of N15 billion (N15,000,000,000.00).
“This led me to browse through my various alerts, and I discovered a transfer Of Thirty-Six Million Naira (N36,000,000.00) from the party.
“I have my reservation about this money transferred into my account and, for personal reasons, wish to return it accordingly. Kindly confirm the receipt of UBA Electronic Transfer of the Thirty-Six Million Naira (N36,000,000.00) attached herewith,” he said.
On his part, the national vice chairman for South South, Chief Dan Orbih, a well-known Wike ally, in his letter dated September 29, 2022 and addressed to Ayu, said: “My attention has been drawn to a damaging trending story reported in THE NATION Newspaper by Yusuf Alli on September 26, 2022 titled “Disquiet in PDP NWC over N10 billion nomination fees.”
“Amongst several other allegations, he alleged that members of the NWC were offered N28 million to gloss over scandalous financial misappropriation. To my shock and surprise, it has been confirmed to me by my bank that the sum of N28, 800,000. (Twenty-eight million eight hundred thousand Naira) has been credited to my account by the party. | hereby notify you of my decision to pay back the money to the party’s account.”
On her part, the national women leader, in her letter said, “If you may recall, the sum of Twenty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira (N28,800,000.00) only was paid into my UBA Account Number 2053101024 on the 14th of September, 2022 When I enquired from your office, I was told that the said sum is for two years’ house rent for me as a member of the National Working Committee.
“Since after the lodgment of the money into my bank account, I have been inundated with many phone calls from party members, friends family members and the general public, insinuating that the said money has been given as a bribe to bring me and other NWC members on the side of the national chairman following the crisis between him on the one side and the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike/Wike’s group on the other.
“In addition, some national newspapers/social media platforms have also carried stories accusing the NWC members of being placated with bribe of N28,800,000.00.
“This development has made me very uncomfortable. Having found myself in such an embarrassing situation, I am hereby refunding to the bank account of our great party at the PDP National Secretariat.”
He went on to mention the PDP account into which he paid the N28 million earlier paid his bank account.
“At an appropriate time, when things normalise, whatever is due to me as my house rent could be paid to me. Thank you for your cooperation as we continue to work together in uplifting our great party,” she said in the letter.
It was, however, learnt that the house allowance was paid to all members of the NWC.
Reacting to the claims by the NWC members, the acting national chairman of PDP, Dr Umar Damagun, told LEADERSHIP Friday that all the NWC members got the housing allowance.
He said the funds were approved for all NWC members for them to go and get their accommodation sorted out, even as he dismissed insinuations that the money was a bribe to hush NWC members.
He added that those who returned the money were being mischievous because they were among those asking for the money in the first place.
Also, the national publicity secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba, when contacted, said, “The thing is that there is no issue of bribe involved in the matter. In any case the party will react properly soon.”
A party source confirmed that the party provides housing and car allowances for its national officers, but he could not provide the figure as of press time.
PDP Refutes Bribery Allegations Over Returned Housing Allowance
Meanwhile, the national publicity secretary of PDP, Hon Debo Ologunagba, in a statement yesterday said, “The attention of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been drawn to misrepresenting reports in a section of the media alluding strange and unfounded motives to the housing allowance duly approved and paid to NWC members and staff of the party.
“The NWC has noted that this misleading report stemmed from an unfounded publication by a particular media outlet which suggested that the housing allowance, an entitlement duly approved and paid to national officials and staff of the party, amounted to bribery.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the PDP states in an unequivocal term that no funds were paid into the account of any member of the NWC as bribe for any purpose whatsoever for that matter.
“To set the record straight, the housing allowance being referred to went through the due process of the party in line with the conditions of service and entitlement of the staff and principal officers of the party.
“If any individual, for any reason, decides to return money duly approved and paid, such does not in any way suggest that the money was paid as bribe or indicate that it was illegitimate or unlawfully paid.”
He urged all members, supporters and the general public to disregard the misleading insinuation which are clearly designed to malign the PDP, cause disaffection and distract the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, from the mission to rescue, rebuild and redirect the nation from the misrule of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Atiku, Obi, Kwankwaso, Others Sign Peace Accord
Ahead of the 2023 general election, presidential candidates and party chairmen yesterday signed a peace accord to ensure peaceful and credible general polls.
Presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso, were among those present at the signing of the peace accord, while presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was represented by his vice, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.
President Muhammad Buhari, while delivering his keynote address at the signing of the peace accord, said the rise of fake news and misinformation has continued to pose a significant threat to the pattern of democracy in Nigeria.
He said fake news has shifted focus away from issue-based campaigns to amplifying the potential for personal attacks, insults, and incitement, that fake news has also significantly diminished the civility and decency in public discourse and debate.
Buhari stated: “As the President, I have always reiterated my commitment to a peaceful, credible, and transparent election, and what the Peace Committee has been doing over the years, aligns with my belief that Nigeria needs peace to achieve credible elections.
“The initiatives undertaken by the National Peace Committee to commit all political actors to an issue-based campaign devoid of incitement, personal insults and attacks is a welcome development.
“The 2023 general election is more than an election, it is an opportunity to serve Nigeria, to defend Nigeria, and to uphold her unity and progress.
“Therefore, I call on all Nigerians, political parties, politicians, security agencies, the election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and all stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria is placed first above regional and sectional claims.
“I call on the contestants, especially their publicity agents and media advisers to shun personal attacks, avoid insults and incitement, reject the spread of fake news, and commit to issue-based campaigns and political rallies. Once again, everything must be done to support the National Peace Committee in their work to ensure peaceful elections in Nigeria,” he said.
National Peace Committee Warns Against Vote-buying
Earlier, the chairman of the National Peace Committee, General Abdusalami Abubakar, said now that the 2023 general election is around the corner, issues of major concern that have the potential to negatively impact integrity are emerging.
He identified one of such issues as the spread of fake news, that fake news, saying misinformation has continued to pose a significant threat to the 2023 elections.
He noted: “It has shifted focus away from issue-based campaigns and created the platform for political parties to resort to name calling, personal insults, and character assassination.
“Furthermore, it has taken away our civility and decency in public discourse and conversations and created a toxic atmosphere that has the potential to incite citizens against the state, against other political parties and candidates.
“It is for this reason that the National Peace Committee has organised the signing of two Peace Accords for the 2023 general elections. The first Peace Accord. which holds today, is to commit all political parties, presidential candidates, and their spokespersons to peaceful political campaigns and rallies, devoid of violence, incitement, and personal insults, but defined by issues at the very heart of national development and progress.
“The second Peace Accord will come up shortly before the elections, and it is intended to commit candidates to accept the outcome of the votes as long as it is adjudged to be free, fair, and credible.
“It is time for us to promote issue-based campaigns. We are calling on politicians to address issues that are fundamental to Nigerian citizens. We also want to promote respect and tolerance for differences in opinions. We want to ensure that there is civility and decency in public discourse.
“Therefore, on behalf of all the members of the National Peace Committee and all Nigerians, I am appealing to the political parties, party chairmen, candidates, and there to please campaign based on issues that are of significant concern to Nigerians. Avoid the spread of fake news, personal attacks, and insults, and comply with the spirit and letter of the Accord.
Also, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, said the commission will closely monitor compliance with the limits on campaign spending and also monitor the use of abusive or slanderous language during the electioneering campaigns.
Yakubu, who said it is not enough to simply sign the peace accord, noted that the commitment to a peaceful and issue-based electioneering campaign should resonate beyond the 18 party chairman and presidential candidates.
“I would like to draw attention to the provision of section 95, subsection two of the Electoral Act. This is because in the past so many political parties approached the commission and complained.
“But section 95, subsection two of the Electoral Act makes it illegal for state apparatus, meaning the power of incumbency, to be used to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate, including the denial of the use of state facilities, public media organizations, or exorbitant charges for outdoor advertising, especially in terms of signages and billboards, and the law also prescribes penalties for any infraction.
“Every election is important. Therefore, the commitment to a peaceful and issue-based electioneering campaign should resonate beyond the 18 party chairman and presidential candidates here today. It is not enough to simply sign the peace accord, what is more important is to abide by his letter and spirit.
“You should similarly pass the message to all your candidates, members, and supporters across the country for compliance. This review is our way of showing appreciation for the work of the National Peace Committee and an affirmation of your contribution to electoral peace in Nigeria,” he said.
In his address, the inspector general of Police
IGP) Usman Alkali Baba warned that the 2022 Electoral Act prohibits political parties and their agents from violative conduct, such as political campaigns or slogans must not contain abusive language or use of languages that are disrespectful to religious, ethnic or tribal beliefs.
“To abusive, slanderous extreme by insinuations or influences likely to provoke violence must not be used in political campaigns. Places designated for religious worship, the police station, and other public offices must not be used for political campaigns, rallies, and processions no to promote, propagate or attack political parties or their candidates or their programs and ideologies.
“The use of fear and intimidation, such as the use of masquerades, physical force or coercion in any form, including the retention and the use of private security organizations, groups of individuals or purpose of providing security at processions is prohibited.
“Section 81 of the Act and Section 227 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prohibits any political party or individuals from organizing, training or equipping or deploying any passive military groups, or specifically trained forces or partisan goals in the electoral hearing, campaign or broad electoral process.
“These include persons or groups trained for posing or coercion or promoting any political objective or interests. Political parties and their agents are also prohibited from either directly or indirectly threatening a person with the use of force or violence during any political campaign or to compel or support or refrain from supporting a political party or candidates,” he said.
The IGP further warned that the Electoral Act also prohibits the possession of offensive weapons or missiles at any rally, procession, or voting center during the conduct of the election.
NPC convener, Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, while delivering his votes of thanks lamented that the issue of vote buying is eating deep into the fabric of Nigeria’s electoral systems, that it should be discouraged in the 2023 general elections.