The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Sunday said it may not invite Iyorchia Ayu, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) over the financial scandal rocking the major opposition party.
Six NWC members, including the Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja; National Woman Leader, Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe; National Vice Chairman (South-South), Chief Dan Orbih, and three others returned last weekend over N122 million which they described as “mysterious payment” into the party’s coffers.
In separate letters to the PDP, the NWC members had said the money had been paid into their account without their knowledge and only realised it after a national daily reported the payment as bribe.
It was also gathered that all the 21 members of the NWC received the money but the rest of them felt there was no need to return it since it was their entitlement.
While some believed that the money was bribe to curry the favours of the NWC members by the embattled chairman, the party, however, justified the payment, saying that it is meant for housing allowance.
At the weekend, a civil rights group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), asked the EFCC to arrest the Ayu, owing to what it described as unprecedented corruption ongoing within the PDP.
Also speaking, a former Commissioner for Information in Edo State, Prince Kassim Afegbua, on Sunday asked the EFCC to invite all the 21 officials of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) who received the alleged bribe disguised as housing allowance from the party.
Afegbua, a former chieftain of the PDP, alleged that the monies paid to the NWC members was a bribe by Ayu after the party officials demanded the whereabouts of over N13 billion realised from sale of forms during the PDP primaries.
He said, “We have a new novel idea of exposition whereby the internal corruption of PDP under Iyorchia Ayu is being exposed. When Ayu was taking over from Secondus, we thought that was going to be a breather because he is a founding member of the party who was a member of the G-34. Ayu was stark broke before he became national chairman but as soon as he came into office, it became a question of the highest bidder. Go to his house today and you will see all manners of SUVs.
“There was a report in May this year that he returned N405 million to the EFCC. Buhari Media Organisation challenged him to speak on that but today, nothing has been said. When is PDP going to learn its lessons? Is that the party that wants to take over from APC? God forbid!
“They raised about N13 billion from sale of forms. I understood that they held a meeting of the NWC and they said where is the money? They realised that the money has been depleted to N1 billion. In order for Ayu to pacify the NWC members, he signed off the N28 million to each of them and left the country for Europe.
“Some of the members of the national working committee after three or four days returned the money. Now, the party is issuing a ridiculous statement that the money was for housing allowance. Are they going to rent Aso Rock that they will pay N28 million for one year? Why is the PDP still retaining its old habits and finding it difficult to let those habits leave them? That is why today when they say PDP, Nigerians respond with ‘share the money’.
“We must commend the six NWC members who returned the money and others who are yet to return their shares must do so now because that money went to the 21 of them. EFCC should immediately step into action. That is the only way we can purge Nigerian political process of illicit acquisition of wealth”.
When contacted, a senior official of the EFCC, who does not want his name in print because he is not authorised to speak on the issue, said it cannot go after the party officials as nobody has written any petition to it on the issue.
Even if a petition is written, he said it will be difficult for the commission to summon the party leaders especially now that the campaign for the 2023 general elections has started.
“The first is that no petition has been forwarded to us on the issue. Second, even if a petition is written, we can’t invite any of them now in the midst of campaigns for general elections. If anything happens tomorrow, they will claim it was the EFCC that distracted them from campaigning”.
However, speaking with our correspondent, a member of the party’s NWC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said those who returned the housing allowance were only acting under the instruction of Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who wants to do everything to bring the PDP down having lost out in the presidential and vice presidential race.
“If you look at what happened during the time they were plotting to remove Secondus, you will realise it is the same thing that is playing out now. Then, it was reported that some NWC members were given money to pass a vote of no confidence on Secondus. That is the same thing that is happening now.
“Having failed in their mission to remove Ayu and realising he enjoys the support of majority of party members as evidenced in the vote of no confidence by NEC, they are now asking their loyalists in the NWC who are mostly from the South to return the money in order to create the impression that the party is corrupt. But they have failed.
“Even look at the statement issued by Arapaja. He claimed that after a newspaper reported they were bribed to keep quiet over misappropriation of N15 billion, he browsed through his various alerts, and he discovered a transfer of N36,000,000.00 from the party.
“Is that not a laughable and ridiculous statement from a supposed adult? What is Arapaja’s net worth? Is he Dangote or Otedola that a whopping N36 million will enter his account and he will not know until a newspaper published a report, then he browsed through his various alerts before realising N36 million was paid into his account few weeks back? What does Arapaja take Nigerians for? Fools?
“They were all aware of the money and get higher returns by those who want Ayu out at all cost. But some disgruntled people asked them to return it so as to embarrass the party and present it to Nigerians as a corrupt party”, he concluded.