Barely 24 hours after launching its campaign, the crisis that has hit the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) escalated yesterday as some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) returned N122.4 million rent stipends paid into their account.
Some NWC members alleged that they got the strange alerts after they joined issues with the party on the whereabouts of over N10billion realized as nomination fees during the party’s primaries.
The N10billion was said to have been depleted to N1billion in uncertain circumstances, leading to tension in NWC.
The Nation had exclusively reported on Monday that some NWC members were paid N28million each to douse the row over the whereabouts of the N10billion fees.
Those who have so far returned their emergency stipends were the Deputy National Chairman (South), Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja (N36million); National Vice Chairman (Southwest) Olusoji Adagunodo (N28,800,000); National Woman Leader Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe (N28,800,000); and National Chairman, Southsouth, Chief Dan Orbih (N28,800,000).
There were indications that some NWC members from the Southeast and the Southwest may also reject the token from the party.
But all those who rejected the stipends belong to the aggrieved camp of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, which has been calling for the sack of the national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
In a September 29, 2022 letter to Ayu, Deputy National Chairman (South), Arapaja said he decided to return his share of N36million because he did not know what it was meant for.
He said he read an alleged “malicious story” that members of the NWC were “offered humongous amount of money to silent(sic) us over an allegation of financial misappropriation to the tune of N15billion.”
He said: “This led me to browse through my various alerts and I discovered a transfer of N36million from the party.
“I have my reservation about this money transferred into my account and for personal reasons wish to return it accordingly.”
Alluding to the same story, Orbih, in a separate letter to Ayu, said: “To my shock and surprise, it has been confirmed to me by my bank that the sum of N28,800,000 has been credited to my account by the party.
“I hereby notify you of my decision to pay back the money to the party’s account.”
The National Woman Leader, Prof. Effah-Attoe, in another September 29th, 2022 letter to Ayu, said although she was told that her own N28,800,000 was for a two-year house rent, she had not been comfortable with developments after the payment of the cash.
She wrote as follows: “If you may recall, the sum of N28,800,000 was paid into my account on the 14th of September, 2022. When I inquired from your office, I was told that the said sum was for two years house rent for me as a member of the NWC.
“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 one hand and the Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Governor Nyesom Wike’s group on the other side.
“In addition, some national newspapers and social media platforms have also carried stories accusing the NWV members of being placated with bribe of N28,800,000.
“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.
“At an appropriate time, when things normalize, whatever is due to me as my house rent could be paid to me.”
There were indications that some members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) have started mobilizing for an emergency meeting to join issues with the party on the nomination fees.
A NEC member said: “We want to know what has become of the fees collected from aspirants before we talk of these curious payments.
“We are already trying to reach a consensus for an emergency NEC meeting. We hope that our leaders will support this push.”
Adagunodo’s letter was entitled: Credit of N28, 000, 000: 00 (Twenty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira) into my Account Number 3098567123 by the party.
It stated: “Please, be informed that the said payment has become a subject of media story and carried with bad intention by them.
“I hereby inform you of the refund of the sum of Twenty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira (N28, 800, 000: 00) back to the Peoples Democratic Party; Account Number 1000095003 at Globus Bank PLC.
“The receipt of the payment back to the account is attached. Most obliged”.
In a swift reaction, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the returned cash was meant for National Working Committee (NWC) members’ housing allowance.
The party, in a statement by its spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, added that the money was not a bribe.
The statement reads in part:: “The attention of the NWC of the 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 members 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 a 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 a bribe or indicate that it was illegitimate or unlawfully paid.
“A bribe is defined as money or any other valuable consideration given or promised with a view to corrupting the behavior of a person, especially in that person’s performance as a public official.
“This is not the case in the payment of housing allowance duly approved for officials and staff of the party.
“The PDP, therefore, urges all members, teeming supporters and the general public to disregard the report and misleading insinuation which are clearly designed to malign the PDP.”
Moves by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to return to power suffered a major setback yesterday.
The return of N122.4 million ‘rent stipends’ by four members of its National Working Committee (NWC) put a question mark on the credibility of the party to manage the commonwealth.
The NWC members – Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja; National Woman Leader, Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe; National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Olasoji Adagunodo and National Vice Chairman (Southsouth), Dan Orbih, returned the cash mysteriously lodged in their bank accounts.
Apart from Arapaja, who returned N36 million, the trio of Prof. Effah-Attoe; Adagunodo and Orbih returned N28.8 million each to the account of the party.
The development drew flaks from those who cautioned Nigerians against returning a party that plundered the country to power.
According to them, the return of several millions of naira credited to the accounts of party chieftains “are enough testimonies against the party.”
A social critic said yesterday: “This is why they are desperate to return to power so they can continue to plunder the wealth of the country. We are witnesses to how they looted the treasury while in office from 1999 to 2015.
“The culture of looting is in their blood. Now their chieftains are making curious payments back to the party. How can they be trusted with the public treasury?
“It’s even good that this is happening now. It will expose their mission in government,” a political pundit said last night.