Following the defeat suffered by President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, during the March 28 and April 11 elections, the President has asked the party and government officials who handled campaign funds to refund monies not spent, or those not judiciously expended.
Jonathan, credible sources said, has also set up a committee of five to get those with the funds to return them.
Sources within the party and government told our correspondents that President Jonathan was disturbed that despite giving campaign coordinators, ministers, special advisers, close aides and friends, support groups and traditional rulers over N2trn in cash, most of them could not deliver their polling booths and local governments.
The President was said to have been further irked by the results of an investigation he ordered. The probe showed that some coordinators used campaign funds to buy very expensive properties, especially in Abuja, and luxury cars. Some of the funds have also been traced to the bank accounts of senior party and government officials who were charged with the disbursement of funds to voters and groups.
A reliable source within the Presidency told our correspondents that one of the President, who recently admitted to a few close aides that it would be difficult to retrieve all the funds, was bent on getting senior party and government officials who received funds to account for all monies collected.
The source who is a close associate of the president said monies given to traditional rulers in different parts of the country, for example, would not be demanded for. But the source was quick to add that the President was determined to get his ministers, close aides and special advisers to make refunds.
He said, “Some ministers did not get less than N20bn each. None of them can deny it because this fact isn’t hidden within government circles. The only problem with such monies is that there is no receipt to show that they collected money. The sad part is that almost all of them performed woefully. Even in the states where the PDP won, some ministers could not deliver 100,000 votes. They could not mobilise their people to come out. The President is not happy. They all went property and car shopping. This was the most expensive election in the history of this country, yet there was no result.
“The sad part was that even after the President lost on March 28, more money was given to all of them to make up for the dismal outing by winning their states during the April 11 elections. But that turned out to be a bad decision because apart from losing the governorship election, we didn’t perform well at the National Assembly and House of Representatives polls.
“They must give an account of the money since they didn’t use it for the election. The President is not particular about the funds spent on genuine campaign needs like the hiring of jets, advertisements and the rest that also cost billions of naira. His focus is on the individuals that collected billions to deliver their states but couldn’t even win their polling booths.”
Our correspondents gathered that apart from the N20bn given to some key ministers and senior special advisers, especially in states where the PDP hoped to capture from the opposition All Progressives Congress, some pro-Jonathan support groups received about N16bn.
A former legislator who was to print five million recharge cards, T-shirts and base ball caps has also come under pressure to account for the billions she received because only a few people got the items she was paid to produce. Also, a top female politician in Lagos who got a contract to produce and supply thousands of mobile phones with pro-Jonathan messages was said to have produced just a few and pocketed most of the funds.
It was learnt that the funds Jonathan released were disbursed in three phases. Some were released before the March 28 elections, others on the day of the presidential election and more before the April 11 governorship polls.
Already, the committee of five has started asking some of the campaign coordinators and ministers who received a minimum of N20bn each to give an account and also refund residual funds where applicable.
However, our correspondents learnt that most of the people who received the funds had not cooperated with the committee. While some have not been forthcoming, others have simply ignored the committee.
Jonathan is said to be particularly focusing on the South-West and northern states.
In Lagos, a popular PDP chieftain who lost in his polling booth reportedly received $50m in cash a few days before the governorship elections.
A senior PDP party member who spoke to one of our correspondents in Lagos over the weekend confirmed the cash splurge in Lagos.
The source said, “Lagos was a show of shame. A few days to the governorship poll, about $150m was received in cash by about five top campaign coordinators. But they failed again, even more than we did in the presidential poll because we lost some areas we won on March 28 to the APC on April 11. They were to share this money to the local governments and the masses.
“Please understand me, I am saying that the sum of $150m was just for the governorship election in Lagos. We are not talking about the sums they got for the presidential election. Only one out of the five people that shared the money gave some of it to local government chairmen. This person disbursed about N2bn. The rest of them sat on the money.
“The coordinator that collected the sum of $50m later went to a Federal Government agency and complained of not having enough funds for the election and got an additional $20m. The story is the same in almost all the South-West especially Oyo, Osun, and the northern states. A female minister from the North, who got the highest amount of funds for that region, lost her state in a shameful manner.”
Confirming that campaign directors in different parts of the country had been asked for an audit, the PDP Campaign Director in Akwa Ibom, Mr. Idongesit Nkanga, said the instruction was not new.
He stated that the PDP’s campaign organisation in the state had concluded its audit.
“It is the normal thing. It is the right thing to do for transparency’s sake,” he said.
Nkanga said he would not be able to comment on the refund because he did not collect money from anyone.
According to him, the PDP’s campaign organisation in Akwa Ibom State received a letter for an audit from the PDP campaign headquarters.
He explained that “because the letter emanated from the national headquarters of the party, they were under obligation to submit the audit report about the campaign’s expenditure to them.”
He maintained that at the campaign headquarters, some of the information was available, adding that he would not be able to give accurate details offhand to avoid possible conflict in the figures.
Asked what sanctions would be meted out to defaulters, Nkanga said they might be prosecuted.
However, our correspondent reports that prosecution, while not impossible, may be difficult as most of the monies disbursed were not receipted.
Contacted, the national leadership of the ruling PDP said it did not know anything about the money spent on its presidential campaign.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Olisa Metuh, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Saturday.
Metuh said only those put in charge of the funds were in a position to account for the monies.
He said, “The national leadership of the PDP is not aware of any campaign fund. We were not part of it and therefore we can’t be asked to account for what we didn’t know anything about.
“There was a campaign committee and only the committee is in the position to account for any fund.”
Efforts made to speak with the Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Sen. Ahmadu Ali were unsuccessful.
Ali, a former national chairman of the party, did not pick his call and also failed to respond to a text message sent to him.
Similarly, efforts to get the Presidency’s reaction did not yield any result as calls made to the telephone line of the presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, as at 10.30pm did not connect.
Via SUNDAY PUNCH