Three months after the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, promised to make the account of the party public, he has yet to do so.
Ayu had in October last year promised to make public the income and expenditure account of the party public by December after its presentation to the National Executive Committee to mark the one-year anniversary of the National Working Committee led by him.
The national chairman made the pledge following accusations of mismanagement of party funds by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who also alleged illegal payment of housing allowance to members of the NWC and members of staff at the party’s secretariat.
The controversy that the accusation generated resulted in the subsequent return of the alleged illegal funds to the party’s coffers by those affected.
In total, the sum of N1.3bn was approved by the party’s leadership for disbursement to the beneficiaries.
The decision was sequel to a memo presented by the party’s National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, at a meeting attended by 13 members of the NWC, while six members sent in apologies.
The Deputy National Chairman (North), PDP, Ambassador Illiya Damagun, presided over the meeting as Ayu was said to have travelled out of the country.
The document read in part: “Housing Allowance for NWC/ Staff: The National Secretary presented a memo requesting (the) NWC to approve the payment of housing allowance to members of the NWC and the staff (members).
“The National Vice Chairman, NW, suggested that the memo be amended by separating the deputy national officers from (the) NWC and also said the housing allowance should be approved considering how much it would help members (of the NWC) and staff (members).
“The National Treasurer commended the National Secretary for ensuring that staff (members) were also beneficiaries of the housing allowance.
“The National Auditor suggested that the two-year salary set aside should be invested.
“Subsequently, the NWC approved a total sum of one billion, three hundred and seventy-eight million, two hundred and eleven thousand, five hundred and eight naira (N1,378,211,508) only for the payment of housing allowance to the NWC, deputy national officers and staff (members).”
Following Wike’s allegation, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja; National Vice Chairman (South-South), Chief Dan Orbih; and National Women Leader, Prof Stella Affah-Attoe, returned sums ranging from N28.8m to N34m paid into their accounts on the grounds that they were suspicious.
They each wrote to Ayu and expressed their displeasure with a media publication suggesting that the money was paid as a bribe to secure their support. The national chairman, however, denied that the payment was a bribe and said the NWC members collectively agreed to the payment of the housing allowance.
Following the controversy Wike and his allies insisted on the resignation of the national chairman over the allegation and claims of lopsidedness in the party’s leadership hierarchy.
Wike and his allies, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; Abia State Governor, Ikeazu Ikpeazu; and Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi, maintained that for equity justice and fairness the national chairman had to step aside for a southern chairman.
The Rivers governor had also accused Ayu of allegedly pocketing N1bn donated by a Lagos businessman, which was never remitted to the party’s treasury, an allegation the national chairman denied.
When contacted by Sunday PUNCH on why Ayu had yet to make the account public as promised, the Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the National Chairman, PDP, Mr Simon Imobo-Tswam, said he had yet to get details from his principal.
Imobo-Tswam stated, “I don’t have that information yet; let the spokesman (of the PDP) speak on it; it is not his (Ayu’s) personal account that is to be published, it is the party’s account.
“I am in the village as we speak; I am bereaved; so, you can talk to him (party’s spokesman).”
When one of our correspondents contacted the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, he said “Go and ask him (Ayu) now. I am the one who said it (to make the account public); go and ask him.
“I am not the national chairman; go and ask him.”
On his part, Orbih stated, “Go and ask him (Ayu); what is my business with him publishing the account or not publishing it; I don’t comment on these types of issues.
“Meet the national chairman and ask him why he has not published the accounts, and not me. Ask other party members. I am an NWC member and not the one you should ask.”
A NEC member and Enugu State branch Chairman of the PDP, Augustine Nnamani, said he was not granted permission to speak on the matter.
“I am not authorised to make any statement on the issue please; I am not the appropriate person to talk about it,” he said.
The national chairman had set up a committee headed by the National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Ajibade, to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of inducement of the NWC members.
Ologunagba had in a statement said, “The NWC at its meeting on Tuesday, October 4, 2022, thoroughly examined the surprising publication by a peculiar newspaper, which reported that the housing allowance legally paid by the party to its national officials was a bribe.”
Meanwhile, a former member of the House of Representatives and chieftain of the PDP, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, has criticised Ayu for his refusal to make public the financial records of the party.
Nwuke, an ally of the Rivers State governor, said the development confirmed Wike’s position on the national chairman.
Nwuke, who is the Chairman, Publicity and Communications Committee, Rivers State PDP Campaign Council, spoke to Sunday PUNCH on the telephone.
The former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications said, “This (Ayu) is a man who does not live up to his commitments.
“He said if a northerner emerged the presidential candidate of the party, he would gladly step aside as the national chairman and give space to the South. He did not.
“He has said that he was going to declare the financial records of the PDP, but he has not. So what advice do you want to give to a man who is unwilling to play by the rules?”
However, a PDP chieftain, Sam Ohabunwa, said Ayu had not reneged on his promise of releasing the financial records of the party.
Ohuabunwa told Sunday PUNCH that the PDP was a well-set-up organisation with its procedures and systems.
He stated, “It has its accounting protocol. Assuming the year ends in December in any company, it cannot be on the second day of January that the account will be ready.
“When the year ends, it takes some time to get returns from all the chapters and branches of any organisation.
“Then you prepare your account. After this, you bring in an auditor who will do his job and then, you present it to the organ of the party from the National Working Committee, the National Executive Council, and the Board of Trustees before it becomes a public document. Ayu cannot make an account and bring it to the public the same day.”
Meanwhile, the Abia State chapter of the PDP said it had to meet to discuss the failure of Ayu to make public the financial records of the party in December 2022 as promised.
The state Chairman of the PDP, Alwell Okere, disclosed this while speaking to one of our correspondents on the issue.
In a WhatsApp message, Okere stated, “The NEC has yet to meet. The Forum of State Chairmen has yet to meet too. This is not an individual issue.
Efforts to reach the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor, Nathaniel Ikyuur, prove abortive as he did not respond to several calls and or replied to a text message sent to his WhatsApp.
Similarly, Chief Olabode George and Prof Jerry Gana, who are allies of the Rivers governor could not be reached for comments as their phones indicated that they were switched.