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Aspirants drag APC over refund of nomination fees as party expels Umahi’s opponent

By Adamu Abuh, Abuja 
15 August 2022   |   4:25 am
As the coast gets clearer for 2023 poll, another round of crisis is brewing in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the party’s inability to refund nomination fees to aspirants ....

Princess Ann Agom-Eze

As the coast gets clearer for 2023 poll, another round of crisis is brewing in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the party’s inability to refund nomination fees to aspirants that stood down during its last national convention of the party.

Aspirants that jostled for various seats in the March 26 national convention of the party were prevailed to step down for other aspirants based on the consensus arrangement brokered by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The party had pegged the cost of form for its chairmanship seat at N20 million, while aspirants for deputy chairmanship seats were expected to obtain their form with N10 million each. Other aspirants for the remaining party seats coughed out N5 million each as expression of interest and nomination fees.

The party is believed to have raked over N700 million from about 170 aspirants during the exercise, just as the party generated more than N3 billion from aspirants for the party’s tickets to participate in the 2023 general election.

But four months after resumption of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC), the party is yet to fulfill its promises to refund the monies to aggrieved aspirants.

MEANWHILE, the Ebonyi South chapter of the APC has expelled Ann Agom-Eze from the party over alleged rebellious and unruly behaviour. Agom-Eze was Governor Dave Umahi’s main challenger for the Ebonyi South senatorial ticket of the APC.

On July 22, a Federal High Court in Abakaliki dismissed a suit filed by Umahi, asking the court to recognise him as the APC candidate for the senatorial district. However, the court ordered that a fresh primary be conducted within 14 days. APC conducted a fresh primary on July 31 where Umahi was declared winner.

In a statement yesterday, Stanley Okoro-Emegha, the state APC chairman, said Agom-Eze “rebelliously jeopardised her membership by violating APC’s Constitution, which prohibits any act of dishonesty capable of disparaging the party or its members.”

He added that Agom-Eze was initially expelled by the ward executives of APC in her Umudomi ward in Onicha LGA of the state.

“The chairman of APC, Ebonyi South zone, Mr Ernest Nwazi, through a motion, expelled Agom-Eze from the party citing rebellious and unruly behaviour,” he said.

“The chairman stated also that she fundamentally violated some sections of the party’s Constitution. Agom-Eze had recklessly disparaged herself by eating back her words in an effort to satisfy her paymasters.

“Since her expulsion started from her ward, I cannot interfere with the decision because politics is a grassroots engagement. We are well-schooled in her antics as she is being bankrolled by the opposition party.” Okoro-Emegha added that the APC would ‘convincingly’ deliver all votes for its candidates at the 2023 elections.

THIS is as the outgoing Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in charge of Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, stated that APC did not conduct governorship primary in the state within the stipulated time by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Igini, whose tenure as a REC expires today, also said APC didn’t conduct primaries for the Mbo State Constituency. This was contained in a statement he issued in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, yesterday.

The outgoing REC, said the clarification became necessary following series of calls and enquiries from members that participated in the party’s primaries to know the situation of things.

It was rumoured that some highly connected party stalwarts in the state were making efforts to compromise the national headquarters of the APC and allegedly planning to present a list of candidates that did not emanate from the primaries monitored by the state office of INEC.

Igini, in the press statement, stated that not all political parties presented candidates for all the positions. “I am impelled to restate for the records the status of party primaries monitored in Akwa Ibom as my five-year tenure comes to an end.

“Generally, in Akwa Ibom, all the political parties that conducted party primaries in compliance with the provisions of Section 84(i) 2022 Electoral Act were monitored by the various teams constituted for the exercise by the state office and reports of the outcome endorsed and forwarded to Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.

“However, not all political parties conducted primaries for all elective offices. The Commission fixed the conduct of all party primaries between April 4 and June 3, 2022. The APC did not conduct its gubernatorial party primary in Akwa Ibom, which was scheduled to hold on May 26, at the Sheergrace Arena, 8/10, Nsikak Eduok Avenue, Uyo.”

BESIDES failure to refund those who willingly stepped down at the convention, APC is indebted to members that conducted the party’s congresses held from the ward level to the national convention for the emergence of the party’s flag-bearers.

This is against the backdrop of the party’s inability to pay workers’ salary as at when due for the past two months as against the practice when the caretaker committee of the party, led by Governor Mai Mala Buni held sway. 

Also, among the aggrieved are dozens of other party stalwarts that conducted screening of aspirants ahead of the party primaries that produced party candidates for the 2023 poll.

One of the aggrieved party stalwarts, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed disappointment with the Adamu-led NWC over the development.

“When the President gave the order on March 23, one will think the first assignment of the beneficiaries of the consensus arrangement, that is the NWC members, will be to effect an immediate refund of our nomination fees, having asked us to write our bank details for refund.

“The party is buoyant. The Buni-led caretaker committee left money, the NWC equally realised a huge sum of money running to billions of naira. What excuse will the NWC give for this delay? When the NWC members have since paid themselves their allowances.

“Individually, we applied for a refund and we have collectively sent a formal letter through the Forum of National Convention Aspirants but all have gone unattended to by the party.

“The irony of it is that when we failed to honour a promise made to our members; when the party engaged members on sensitive assignments like the screening and conduct of primaries and the assignment was carried out, using our money, one would expect the party to honour us with prompt payment of our dues. To add salt to our injuries, we learnt that the yet-to-be-paid allowances have been slashed by 40 per cent.”

When contacted, the National Vice Chairman (North West) Salihu Lukman, assured that the party would address the grievances of party stalwarts in due course.

According to him, “it is part of the unfortunate internal challenges. Administratively, this should have been resolved long ago. For instance, in my case, about four people stepped down for me and they have been talking to me. I have been drawing the attention of the party to the development and I think now it is clear that the party has to resolve it as quickly as possible. I can assure you that is going to happen.”