Signs that the crisis in the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is getting messier emerged Thursday with 5 members of the National Working Committee (NWC) loyal to Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, returned a total of N151.2 million paid into their separate accounts by the party.
Members of the NWC that rejected the money include; Deputy National Chairman (South) Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, National Vice Chairman (South-south) Chief Dan Orbi, National Vice Chairman (South-west) Hon Olasoji Adagunodo, National Vice Chairman (South-east) Dr. Ali Odefa, and National Women Leader Professor Stella Effah-Attoe.
They claimed the money was tagged bribe by some members of the party to influence them to stall the removal of the PDP National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, and ignore the alleged financial misconduct in the party.
Blueprint reports that the Wike-led faction of the PDP recently pulled out of the campaign council of the party’s presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
They vowed not to play any role in Atiku’s campaign ahead of the 2023 general elections, insisting Ayu must resign to create a way for a Southerner to become the party’s national chairman for them to rescind their decision.
On Wednesday, a member of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC), Chief Chinemerem Madu, had raised the alarm over alleged plot to scuttle the campaign of the party’ s presidential candidate.
He claimed a national vice chairman whose name he didn’t mention, confessed to have been heavily bankrolled and was approaching as well as offering NEC members sums ranging from N25 million to N28 million each to address a damaging press conference with fabrications aimed at derailing the presidential campaign.
However, a credible source in the party, said Madu’s allegation was to distract Nigerians from the revelation of alleged misappropriation of funds that would be made public in days.
NWC members open up
However, contrary to his claims, Arapaja, according to a letter he wrote to Ayu, a copy of which was made available to Blueprint, returned Thirty-Six Million Naira (N36,000,000.00), while Orbih, Adagunodo and Effah-Attoe returned N28, 800,000 (Twenty eight million eight hundred thousand Naira) each which was paid into their various accounts from the PDP account.
Arapaja, in the letter addressed to PDP national chairman, dated 29th September, 2022 and titled Return of Thirty-Six Million Naira (N36,000,000.00) Housing Allowance Paid into my Account, said: “I observed a malicious story reported in The Nations Newspaper of 26th September, 2022; where it was alleged that members of the National Working Committee were offered humongous amount of money to silent us over an allegation of financial misappropriation to the tune of Fifteen Billion Naira (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,” the letter read.
In a similar letter dated 29th September 2022, addressed to Ayu, Orbi 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.”
It said: “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. I hereby notify you of my decision to pay back the money to the party’s account.
“Kindly confirm receipt of Zenith Bank Manager’s cheques”.
Orbih when contacted by journalists in Abuja, Thursday confirmed that the letter emanated from him and others.
Adagunodo in yet another letter dated 29th September, 2022 also addressed to the national chairman and titled “Credit of N28,800,000:00 (Twenty Eight Million Eight Hundred Thousands Naira) into my Account Number by the Party” stated that please be informed that the said payment has become a subject of media story and carried with bad intention by them.”
The letter partly read “I hereby inform you of the refund of the Sum of Twenty Eight Million Eight Hundred Thousand Naira (28,800.000:00) back to the Peoples Democratic Party, Account Number 1000095003 at Globus Bank Plc.
“The receipt of the payment back to the account is attached.”
Also on her part, the PDP National Women leader in a different letter dated 29th September, 2022 addressed to the party’s national treasurer, titled “Refund of Funds into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) account” stated that “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 (2) years House Rent for me, as a member of the National Working Committee.
Effah-Attoe’s letter further read: “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 side and the Governor of Rivers State, H.E Governor Nyesom Wike’s Group on the other side.
“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. Globus Bank, Account number: 1000095003 the sum of Twenty Eight Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira (N28, 800,000.00) only, earlier paid into my Bank Account.
“At an appropriate time when things normalise, whatever is due to me as my house rent could be paid to me.”
Also returning his own share of the money, Odefa in a separate letter dated 29th September, 2022 and addressed to Ayu, said: “My attention has been drawn to a very distasteful and disturbing story published in The Nations Newspaper of 26 September 2022; wherein it was alleged that members of the National Working Committee were offered a huge amount of money as a means of silencing us over an allegation of misappropriation of funds to the tune of Fifteen Billion Naira (N15,000,000,000.00) and upon cross checking with my bank account officer, I discovered a transfer of Twenty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira only (N28,800,000.00) from the party.”
“Really, I have my reservations about this fund transferred into my account and for obvious reasons I wish to return it accordingly.
“Please do confirm the receipt of UBA Electronic Transfer of the sum of Twenty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira only (N28, 800,000.00) as attached,” Odefa wrote.
PDP refutes bribery claim
But in a reaction, the PDP described the bribery allegation as false.
In a statement Thursday by its national publicity secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, the party said the controversial sum returned by the five NWC members, was housing allowance duly approved and paid to them and other staff members.
“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.
“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, cause disaffection and distract our Party from our mission to Rescue, Rebuild and Redirect our nation from the misrule of the All Progressives Congress (APC),” the party said.