WHY I OPENED CAN OF WORMS – PDP DEPUTY NATIONAL CHAIRMAN
The deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Taofeek Arapaja, has opened up on why he and his colleagues in the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) returned party funds, declaring that there are more discrepancies in management of party funds.
Arapaja, who denied being a lackey of the camp of the aggrieved party governors and leaders, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the figures declared for the sale of forms do not correspond with what was declared to them by the party.
He added that they decided to return the money because they became convinced that it was not legitimate.
Arapaja, who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend, however, denied that the five NWC members who returned the money to the coffers of the PDP are working for the Wike Camp, adding that they are adults who can make their own decisions.
He said, “That is not true. We told you all that happened – and that is what it is. We believe the money is suspicious. Why didn’t you give us before now. We have our names to protect So we believe that, that is not the type of money we should collect.
“More things are coming out; we see N1billion here, another $2 million there. All sorts of things are coming out. Even the sale of forms does not correspond with what was declared to us.
“We don’t believe the money that was sent to us was legit and we returned it. It does not mean that we are working for anybody. We are adults.”
On the next line of action, he said it was up to Ayu whether to resign or not.
“We are part of the NWC but I am not the chairman. Whether or not he resigns is up to him,” he said.
On whether they will insist on an internal probe, he said, “When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. He said only the NEC can take that decision.”
Arapaja’s claim comes as the embattled PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, returned to the country from his two-week European trip yesterday.
Ayu’s media aide, Simon Imobo-Tswam, in a terse statement, said the national chairman arrived in Nigeria at about 7pm, having jetted out of the country on September 14.
While he was away, the deputy chairman (North), Amb. Iliya Damagun, acted in his place.
Ayu also communicated the handover to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
When asked about the issues raised so far by the NWC, Imobo-Tswam said it was a party matter and that the party would respond.
Ayu has been at the centre of the storm rocking the main opposition political party.
On Thursday, five members of the National Working Committee (NWC) declared that they had returned N151 million paid to them by the national chairman as two years’ housing allowance.
The return of the funds comes barely 24 hours after the party flagged off its presidential campaign in Abuja.
The NWC members, in separate letters dated September 29 and addressed to Ayu, said they returned 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.
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.
The money was paid into their account on September 14, 2022.
Arapaja returned N36 million, while the four others refunded N28.8 million each.
Reacting to the claims by his colleagues, the acting national chairman of PDP, Dr Umar Damagun, said all the NWC members got the housing allowance approved for all of them to sort out their accommodation issues.
He further dismissed insinuations that the money was a bribe to hush NWC members, adding that those who returned the money were being mischievous because they were among those asking for the money in the first place.
Checks by LEADERSHIP Weekend, however, revealed that 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 Ayu’s refusal to resign as the national chairman.
The group had called on Ayu to resign and pave the way for a southern national chairman for geo-political balancing of the party’s leadership structure.
Also speaking on a political programme on Channels TV, Senator Olaka Nwogu also raised questions over the huge sums of money that was assigned to the NWC members as housing allowance, stressing that, ideally, only the National Executive Committee (NEC) can approve such huge money.
“The money didn’t get the approval of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. There are thresholds for such an amount of money,” he said.
Stressing that the situation had become an embarrassment for party members, he said the honourable thing was for those involved to resign.
Countering the claims by the NWC members, former PDP national public secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday, said that the housing allowance given to NWC members had been the practice and not bribe as insinuated by some of the party executives who returned the money.
Ologbondiyan insisted that the money was legitimately earned.
The former spokesman, who disclosed this while fielding questions on the Arise TV’s Morning Show programme, yesterday, said: “There is no way this issue that we are discussing now would not have been debated, going by experience, in the National Working Committee, with minutes taken, and it will be agreeable to all members of the NWC what each member is going to get.
“So, it is totally strange that people are talking about money legitimately earned as if it is a bribe. I will be surprised if any member of the NWC comes up to say that the issue was not discussed at the committee, that there was no agreement in the committee.
“That has been the practice, that is what we met, and that is what we left,” he said.
Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the national chairman of the party gets a monthly allowance of N2 million while his two deputies get a monthly allowance of N1.5m. Other NWC members get N1 million monthly.