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Monday, March 4, 2024

Benue APC crisis: Onjeh alleges bias by NWC 

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Chieftain of the APC and the party’s senatorial candidate for Benue South in the 2023 General Elections, Com. Daniel Onjeh, has alleged bias by the National Leadership of the party in handling his petition of anti-party activities levelled against the embattled APC Chairman in Benue State, Mr. Augustine Agada.

In a six-page reminder to the APC National Working Committee through the party’s National Chairman, dated February 6, 2024, Com. Onjeh expressed concern that 11 clear days after he filed a petition backed with irrefutable proof of Mr. Agada’s anti-party activities during the last general elections, he was yet to receive any official response from the party’s National Secretariat, while no circular has been issued as well to that effect.

“I humbly wish to draw your attention to Article 21 (DISCIPLINE OF PARTY MEMBERS), Section 21.3, (Disciplinary Procedure), Subsections i-v of the APC Constitution (as amended 2022), which stipulates that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has seven (7) days after receipt of a petition against a member, to constitute a Fact-Finding Committee to investigate the matter and report back to the NWC, before subsequently stepping down the matter to a Disciplinary Committee within 14 days, to hear and determine the allegation.

However, it has been 11 clear days after I filed the petition referred to above; yet, no official from the National Secretariat of the party has formally reached out to me, and no circular has been issued to the effect of my petition as well,” stated Onjeh.

Com. Onjeh said he considered it a huge aberration the only reaction he has gotten so far on the matter from the National Leadership of the APC, came off the pages of newspapers, stating that the National Secretariat of the party had set aside the suspension of Mr. Agada which was validly executed by the party’s ward officials at his Ehaje 1 Ward, in Owukpa, Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State, without the slightest recourse to the APC constitution.

Onjeh was of the view that if the APC NWC had authorised the statement setting aside the suspension of Mr. Agada, then it had over-stepped the boundaries of its constitutional powers, because the APC constitution recognizes the relevant organs of the party which are vested with responsibilities at every stage; adding that the ward, which registers members into the party, was equally responsible for suspending erring members from the party.

“You are probably aware that I copied the Ward Executives of Ehaje 1 in Owukpa, in the petition which I sent to your esteemed office, and they acted expeditiously on it because they were already very conversant with the issues I raised therein. They were living witnesses to the anti-party activities of the suspended state chairman, Mr. Agada, against my candidature, which led to our party losing in all the presidential, senatorial and House of Representatives elections conducted in his polling unit on February 25, 2023,” stated Onjeh.

In an earlier petition to the APC NWC dated January 22, 2024, Com. Onjeh had tendered proof, including receipts of financial transactions, to show that amongst other anti-party activities, Mr. Agada supported the 2023 electioneering campaign of the PDP senatorial candidate and current Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Abba Moro, with the total sum of nine million naira (N9,000,000.00).

“It is imperative at this juncture for me to state that what confers power to the positions occupied by members of the NWC, which we all respect, is the constitution of the party. As such, we are all equal before the law, and we must be protected by the constitution. I must therefore state that the decision of the NWC to set aside the suspension of Mr. Agada without recourse to the constitution, and the fact that the National Leadership of the party has still not deemed it fit to constitute a Fact-Finding Committee to investigate the claims in my petition 11 days after it acknowledged receipt, leaves me with no other option but to suspect that the national leadership is already biased against me on the matter,” stated Onjeh.

The former Chairman of the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, Governing Board further stated that if Mr. Agada, the suspended party Chairman in Benue State, feels strongly that the APC Ward Executives of Ehaje 1, Owukpa, acted wrongly or unfairly in suspending him on allegations of anti-party, for which prima facie evidence had been established against him, the APC constitution states that he should appeal to the Local Government Executive Committee. And if any party is still not satisfied with the decision of the party’s Local Government Executives on the matter, the case may be referred to the State Executive Committee. Meanwhile, the suspension of Mr. Agada remains valid pending the decision of the State Executive Committee.

“Our constitution provides that it is only when any party in a case is not satisfied with the decision taken by the State Executive Committee, that the matter may be escalated to the National Working Committee. The APC constitution equally states that even when the NWC is in receipt of a complaint, it shall not deliberate on it prior to sending it to a Fact-Finding Committee for investigations, before stepping down the findings to a Disciplinary Committee. It is only at that stage that the NWC may take a final decision on the matter, to either uphold or set aside the decision of the Ward Executives. That is what our laws say,” stated Onjeh.

The former President of Nigeria’s apex student body, NANS, stated further that he finds it incredible that the APC NWC could ignore the party’s constitution which it swore to uphold, by claiming it had reversed the suspension of Mr. Agada, and even worse, via the media.

Further in his letter, Com. Onjeh stated that he fulfilled his obligations to his party by purchasing its 2023 Senate Nomination Form at an exorbitant price of N20 million. He added that he also campaigned round the whole 102 council wards in Benue South, asserting that he was the only candidate across political party divides that saw the entire 102 council wards of Benue South in the course of the last general elections. Onjeh further alleged that his formal declaration at the ward and zonal levels, as well as the flag-off of his campaign, all cost him several tens of millions.

“My billboards are still currently all over Benue South, in case you need verification. Not to mention other publicity costs like printing of countless T-Shirts and Fez Caps, banners, posters, handbills, branding, souvenirs etc. If I add to all these, my numerous media outings, ward tours, campaigns visits to revered authorities/interest groups, mobilization of my agents and other miscellaneous costs, then I should be talking about spending well over One Hundred Million Naira during the last general elections.

Onjeh stated that considering the endorsement of an acting chairman for the APC Benue State Chapter at a SEC meeting convened at the instance of the state governor, Rev. Fr. Alia, the party at the national level should endorse the SEC’s choice and make an official pronouncement to that effect.

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