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10 years after, Enugu PDP secretariat project still in limbo

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The Enugu State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has since its inception in 1999 produced various chairmen. They include Chief Charles Egumgbe, who is the current Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters, the traditional ruler in Aninri council of the state, His Royal Highness, Igwe Onyioha Nwanjoku, Chief Vita Abba, Mr. Ikeje Asogwa, also Chairman of Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB), and the incumbent, Mr. Augustine Nnamani.

From 1999 also, its products have controlled the executive and legislative arms of government. In fact, no other political party has been able to win the election in Enugu State except PDP. The only exception was in 2015 when the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of Muhammadu Buhari appointed its member from the state into the federal executive council other federal appointments made before then in the state had been from within the fold of the PDP.

However, while the party has continued to dominate affairs in the politics of the state, one challenge it has been unable to overcome is lack of permanent address, as it has no structure of its own. It has operated from one rented apartment to another in the state. From an old building along Abakaliki Road in GRA in 1999, the offices of the party moved to Zik Avenue in Uwani, where Onyioha Nwanjoku operated till he served out his tenure. From Zik Avenue, offices of the party moved to Ogui Junction into former governor Sullivan Chime’s father’s building. It was while administering the party from this building that Vita Abba-led executive conceived the idea of setting up a permanent secretariat building for PDP.

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After Abba left, Ikeje Asogwa who took over from him operated from the same building until Chime exited office in 2015. He would later chase PDP out of the building immediately he joined All Progressives Congress (APC). The party is currently occupying the property of one of its members along the GRA.

It was in an apparent move to change and end the party’s homelessness even as it claimed that ‘Enugu is PDP’ as well as deepen the party’s foothold in the state that the Vita Abba-led executive in 2010 resolved to set up a state secretariat building befitting the PDP. The proposed secretariat would comprise offices, libraries, conference halls for retreats and meetings among others.

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It was also projected to accommodate the zonal offices of the party in the Southeast, so as to give it a broader outlook. A choice area at Liberty Estate, Independence Layout was chosen and secured for the project. With the support of the state government under Sullivan Chime (now in APC), parts of the undeveloped land belonging to the state’s Ministry of Sports and Rangers Football Club were annexed and devoted to the project. The plan for its accomplishment took off in earnest.

Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu was appointed to lead a committee that would raise funds for the realization of the project. While Ekweremadu and others pursued funding, Chairman of Enugu State Universal Basic Education (ENSUBEB), Asogwa, who later became the party’s state chairman, headed the building committee.

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Agreements were reached that the party would not only look inwards for funds for the project but would need members’ individual contributions to make the project a reality. Then auditor of the party, Mr. Armstrong Agbo, reportedly supervised the project.

It was gathered that outside the funds members contributed, appointed and elected officials were made to contribute from their monthly incomes until the project was completed. It could not be ascertained whether the monthly contributions were carried out and how much the party realised from it. An 18-month timeline was set by the leadership of the party for the realization of the project. And to underscore the importance of the project to the party, it began to hold party functions, especially those involving the national and zonal affairs at the permanent site.

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However, about 10 years down the line, Enugu PDP is still operating from a rented apartment. The building on the permanent site has been abandoned and apparently forgotten. The Guardian, which recently visited the site, discovered that no work had been undertaken there for some time. Work was stopped after the building was raised to the lintel level. A thick forest has completely enveloped the place and the structure now provides shelter for insects and other animals. It is also a hideout of some sort for criminal elements. Concerns are being expressed that the building may not be completed after all.

“Not when the party is barely surviving in the state even with being in control of power,” a PDP Stalwart, Jerry Ugwu told The Guardian. “Not with the many troubles and contentions here and there over who gets what and where the interests now are how to satisfy self and not the party”.

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Ugwu lamented that “the party which has done so much to bring many of us to limelight cannot boast of anything we have done to deepen its hold on the state”, pointing out that Ebonyi State, “even with their number can boast of a secretariat of their own for the PDP”.

A source, however, hinted that Enugu chapter was not the only branch of the party that planned to set up a permanent secretariat building that got abandoned midway. The N11 billion national secretariat building of the party in Abuja is said to be suffering a similar fate. The 12-story building conceived in 2008 and located on Muhammadu Buhari Way in the Central Business District has not been completed.

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On several occasions, funds were reportedly raised for the completion of the Abuja project. The first was in 2008 under the National Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor. The second was in 2014 under Bamanga Tukur. where about N21 billion was reportedly raised.

In the case of Enugu State chapter, funds were reported raised from individual contributions, sale of forms for elections, and donations as well as fund raising activities that involved friends of the party within and outside the state.

Divergent opinions have been expressed as to the cause of the abandonment of the secretariat building even when the party has continued to dominate the politics and governance of Enugu State. While some attribute it to the paucity of funds, others insist that the party generated enough to have taken care of the project but blamed it on lack of accountability and mismanagement of resources. There are others who are calling for a probe into the activities of those who handled the secretariat project so far.

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Former Chairman, Abba, had earlier told The Guardian that no member of the party contributed money under his tenure for the project, stressing that money used in the purchase of the land and fencing was sourced internally.

Reminded, however, that his administration set up the Ekweremadu fund raising committee that sourced for money for the project, Abba added: “That committee was formed with Ekweremadu as the chairman with no interference from the chairman of the party. The then committee chairman should be able to explain how much was raised and how much was spent on the project”.

He stated that he did not run the party alone, but with other officials, stressing, “the issue of secretariat building was handled by those we set up for the project”.

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Investigations, however, reveal that an account was opened at the Zenith Bank branch in Enugu specifically for the project. Signatories to the account were said to include the party’s chairman, building chairman, secretary, and one other official. Ekweremadu, when contacted, disclosed that funds were raised by his committee to prosecute the project. Speaking through his Media Adviser, Uche Anichukwu, he, however, refused to disclose how much was raised but stressed that he handed over everything, including monies he personally raised and were “kept in a Zenith Bank account to Vita Abba”.

Asogwa, who took over from Vita Abba and organized a fund raising launch for the project, denied that work stopped at the secretariat building after monies were raised. He stated that whatever was realised was channeled to the project, and challenged anyone with a contrary report to come forward.

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“It is a blatant lie that resources raised for the project were not utilized,” he stated. “The records are there for everyone to see.”

As at the time of filing this report, the current chairman of the party in the state, Augustine Nnamani, refused to respond to inquiries on the fate of the project. A source in his office, however, said: “That secretariat building is the least of the things on the table of the party at the moment”

A former national auditor of the party, Chief Ray Nnaji, believes that the secretariat project was suffering due to lack of checks and balances, stressing that it was unfortunate that its promoters could not account for anybody about their activities.

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Nnaji said: “I am aware that the former government of Sullivan Chime and the former party leadership of Vita Abba made efforts to set up a state secretariat for PDP. The Honourable Ikeje Asogwa, with some members, was set up to oversee the building of the state secretariat and land was carved out then very close to Rangers camp for the project. Work commenced at the site up to the decking level, but suddenly work stopped.

“When Asogwa became chairman after Vita, members thought the project would receive speedy completion, since he was chairman of the building committee and now chairman of the party, but everything suddenly collapsed. The project has been like that since then.

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“It is so unfortunate that this could happen after the money was raised. I know quite well that some money was raised by individuals and party fateful of which Asogwa committee never accounted to anybody. I knew quite well that Ike Ekweremadu was also involved, but unfortunately, all the money they realized, nobody knows how they applied it. The project is abandoned and there is a need that the party should inquire to know what is holding the project from completion after several millions of naira were raised for it. How was the money utilized and how much was involved?

“Those that will answer the question are the Ikeje Asogwa committee, the Vita Abba executive and Senator Ike Ekweremadu fund raising committee. Along the line, more names may be mentioned. We cannot leave it like that when the land is lying fallow and when the party is still in a rented place. Where we are now is a rented place, which ought not to be. We ought to have our secretariat by now. Ebonyi PDP has her own secretariat and many other places. It is very shameful and too bad. I hope the party will do the needful in this regard.”

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