By Luminous Jannamike
There is rumble in the camp of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu state over allegations of financial impropriety and inordinate ambition of a few members of the Party not Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s 2019 ambition as reported in some sections of the media, Vanguard has learnt.
Some political watchers in the state had claimed that the crisis plaguing the Enugu chapter of the APC was largely rooted in the presidential aspiration of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Some members of the Party said the crisis began when pro-Atiku sympathizers made effort to “hijack” the Buhari Support Group by changing it to Integrity Group but were resisted by the resilience of some staunch Buhari men.
However, others disagreed but blamed the rumble on alleged financial misappropriation by the Chairman of the state chapter of the Party, Ben Nwoye, and his cohorts.
According to reliable sources in the party, the crisis began immediately after President Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner of the 2015 Presidential election and further escalated between June and July this year, when the party was embroiled in a mess of suspension and counter-suspension of some members of the State Working Committee (SWC) and other members of the party.
Vanguard further learnt that the grouse of some caucus members of the APC with Nwoye also had to do with his domineering attitude and total control of the party’s machineries in Enugu which totally hamstrung the Party at all level in the last general elections in 2015.
Our sources say the most surprising is the decision of the national leadership of the Party to play the ostrich despite the many petitions filed before it; calling for thorough investigation into the finances of the Party under the leadership of Ben Nwoye.
Recently, the Forum of APC Women Leader, Enugu state chapter petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the National Chairman of the Party through their lawyer, Dom Ezeani, alleging that Ben Nwoye ignored the directive from the Party’s national leadership to buy Sienna buses with N20.4m given to Enugu chapter of the Party.
The Sienna buses were to be for the women wing, youth wing, State secretary and Chairman of the Party for easy grassroots mobilization ahead of the last general elections.
The Forum confirmed that the money was fully paid to the state chapter but Nwoye only bought Sienna bus for himself, documenting the car in his company’s name. The registration number of the said car is “LAGOS AKD 347DR”.
Sequel to that, Nwoye could not account for the balance of the money.
According to our source, Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, had also written a petition against Nwoye alleging lack of transparency and working at cross purposes with other members of SWC.
The source said Nwoye, in his reaction, allegedly blackmailed Okechukwu with a threat to expose how he diverted the sum of N100, 000 given to him for each of the 113 delegates of the state to the 2014 APC Presidential Primaries by the Buhari’s Campaign Committee.
Vanguard learnt from multiple sources that out of N150, 000 set aside for each delegate, Okechukwu paid N50, 000 but promised to balance up in time. However, he has failed to do so three years on.
“Osita Okechukwu collected N150, 000 each from Buhari Campaign Organisation during the last Presidential primary for all the 113 delegates and shared only N50,000 each. Please, do the math and find out how much he pocketed. Little wonder, he started supporting Ben Nwoye after petitioning him for financial misappropriation because Nwoye blackmailed him with these facts,” a source said.
However, when Vanguard contacted the DG-VON for his reaction and to clear his name, he said: “Kindly, contact Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), current CG of Customs.
He was the then Chief of Staff to Mr. President. Comrade Adolphus Ude collected Enugu Delegates’ money from him in my presence. Ali disbursed the money himself. If you speak with him, his position will clear the malicious allegations from some renegades. Methinks, he has no need to tell lies.”
Contacted, Adolphus Ude denied having anything to do with Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) with regards to the Enugu delegates’ money from Buhari.
When our correspondent sought for substance behind the report in a national newspaper (not Vanguard) which claims that the battle for the structure and soul of the APC in Enugu by some person close to ex-VP Atiku Abubakar (ahead of the 2019 elections) was the real reason unsettling the Party in Enugu, nothing was discovered.
No less a person than the state spokesperson for the Party, Madam Kate Offor, dismissed the report.
She told Vanguard that “2019 cannot be the issue the origin of the rumble in Enugu Chapter of the Party. I can authoritatively tell you that it is the inordinate ambition of a few to wrestle power from the state Chairman, Ben Nwoye that originated the crisis.
“Nwoye was duly elected and his chairmanship was endorsed severally by the National leadership of our Party. So, those accusing him of financial impropriety are doing so for reasons best known to them and that is tearing our Party apart. If monies were truly embezzled, common sense should tell anyone interested in the finances of the party in the state that one man cannot siphon election funds.
“So, why must it be only Nwoye that is mentioned everywhere? Please, Nwoye should be left alone to continue his work of building the Party into a cohesive force ahead of 2019 by his attracting of high profile politicians in the state to the Party
“But I must say that emphatically that 2019 is not the issue unsettling APC in Enugu after all we had Kwankwaso structures, Atiku structures, and Buhari structures at all levels of the Party before 2015 yet we worked as one and emerged victorious at the end of the day,” Offor said.
When Ben Nwoye was reached on telephone for comments, he accused our reporter of being an impostor who wanted to mine sensitive information from him for ignoble purposes. “I will not speak to you, if not face-to-face. Anybody can call me on phone; claiming to be a journalist. If you want to hear from me, come and see me face-to-face.”
On his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who is also the leader of the Party in Enugu, pleaded for peace and also called for dialogue among key stakeholders.
He said due process, transparency, accountability and fair-hearing as enunciated by the constitution of the APC should be adhered to in handling Party affairs.