Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has abandoned the construction of its 12-storey new secretariat due to paucity of funds.
BNL Construction and Engineering Company handling the construction of the edifice has since moved out of site following the inability of the party to provide more funds for the project.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the site located on Muhammadu Buhari Way in the Central Business District of Abuja, only three staff of the company were seen providing security for the uncompleted building.
One of them told PREMIUM TIMES that the company withdrew from the site in 2014 because the party, which only left power at the centre about 18 months ago, could no longer mobilise money to continue the project.
Uduak Usoro, a contact person for BNL Limited, confirmed to this newspaper that work had stopped on the site.
“The site is no longer active but you can still see some of our staff there,” he said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Usoro however declined to speak on the reason why the company demobilized from site.
“I can’t answer further questions; you are a journalist. I don’t know why you are asking. I’m sorry, please.”
HOW PROJECT WAS INITIATED
The construction of a new secretariat was conceived in 2008 by Ahmadu Ali, the fourth national chairman of the PDP, due to inadequate office space in the present secretariat in Zone 5, Wuse District of the federal capital.
John Odey, who was the party’s spokesperson when the project was conceived, told PREMIUM TIMES that Namadi Sambo, an architect and former vice president of Nigeria, was mandated by the party to produce the project design.
Mr. Odey did not however say if Mr. Sambo, who was then governor of Kaduna State, was paid for the services.
On November 14, 2008, the party’s new National Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, who had assumed office in March, organised a fund raising dinner in Abuja to raise the initial N10 billion targeted to commence the project.
At the dinner chaired by the then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, over N6 billion was raised for the project with businessman, Femi Otedola, donating the highest amount of N1 billion and his late father, Michael Otedola donating N25 million.
Other major donors included Aliko Dangote who promised to supply cement worth N3 billion; the PDP National Working Committee, N1 billion; Bola Shagaya, N25 million; Strabag Construction Company N100 million; Ogun State, N10 million; and an anonymous donor, N100 million.
Late President Umaru Yar’Adua and his then deputy, Mr. Jonathan, contributed N527,205 and N454,735, representing 15 per cent of their basic salaries, respectively.
Mr. Ogbulafor had earlier announced that each of the party’s 28 state governors at the time would contribute N50 million towards the project.
The contract was subsequently awarded to BNL Limited to which the party gave an initial N2 billion.
The project was billed to be completed in 126 weeks.
It was gathered that because of the construction variations over the years, the project cost rose to N16 billion out of which the party had paid N6 billion before work stopped.
The fund raising dinner drew scathing criticisms from the opposition, which accused the then ruling party of insensitivity by embarking on the project when Nigerians were battling hunger and poverty.
The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, in a statement by its then spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu, described the event as “corruption incorporated.”
The group of opposition parties said the PDP had merely demonstrated not only the unholy alliance between the party and “corporate Nigeria, but corruption incorporated, insensitivity, disconnect with citizens and total abuse of power.”
It further said the launch showed that the leadership of the PDP “is only obsessed with ruling Nigeria for 60 years by crook and least concerned about the mass poverty, gross unemployment, decayed infrastructure and total hopelessness in the land.”
The defunct Action Congress also criticised the PDP for initiating the project, while 14 other opposition parties instituted a suit in court on the matter.
But the PDP, in response to the criticisms, said it had no apology for living up to the standards expected of it in the political environment of the time.
“Given our history and strategic position not only as the leading party in Nigeria but also as the ruling party, we have a historic responsibility to set the pace and standard expected of a party of our status in an emerging democracy,” Rufa’i Alkali, the party’s former spokesperson said.
But for a long time, the PDP, which styles itself the biggest party in Africa, could not complete the building, despite being in power at the centre between 1999 and 2015, during which it produced the nation’s three presidents in a row: Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Yar’Adua and Mr.Jonathan.
At some point, the party also controlled about 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
However, in October 2013, five years after the project was initiated, the then National Chairman of the PDP, Bamanga Tukur, initiated fresh moves to re-mobilise the contractors to site.
Mr. Tukur constituted a 20-member committee chaired by the then governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, who was the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, to raise money for the party.
Other members of the committee were former Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, who served as the deputy chairman; the then Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke; her counterpart in the Transportation ministry, Idris Umar; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; and a senator. Hope Uzodima.
Ben Okoye, Shittu Mohammed, Bolaji Anani, Sani Dauda, King A.J. Turner and Bala Buhari were also members of the committee.
Part of the money to be raised was going to be used to complete the new secretariat.
Mr. Tukur tasked the committee to help mobilise resources to ensure the completion of the project just as he called on party members and the public to support it.
The committee through Mr. Akpabio assured that it would raise the money.
“We want to assure you that we are alive to our responsibilities and rising from here, the story would change,” the former governor told Mr. Tukur.
The issue of the secretariat resurrected in December 2014 after a fund raising dinner was organized by the PDP to raise funds for Mr. Jonathan, its candidate, in the 2015 presidential election.
About N21 billion was realized at the event.
But controversy soon broke out over the utilisation of the money.
The Chairman of the event and former Information Minister, Jerry Gana, had said during a visit to the construction site on January 15, 2015 that the money raised at the dinner was not only meant for the party’s campaign but to complete the new secretariat.
He said: “The N21 billion is not for election, but for the party’s projects…..Substantial part of the money is for the completion of the building project. There is a specific focus on the uncompleted PDP permanent headquarters.
“By the grace of God, this building will be completed this year. We want to put to rest all the permutations in the media that the money is for the President.”
Months after the PDP was defeated by the All Progressives Congress in the 2015 presidential poll, the party said it did not receive the money to complete the project, prompting its officials to cry out.
Olisa Metuh, the then spokesperson of the party, in December 2015, said the party was broke and therefore could not continue with the project.
“During our sales of forms, we had planned to use substantial part of the money to complete the secretariat,” he said.
“We also had a fund-raising dinner where money was raised and we were told that about N21 billion was raised and that some of it would be given to us for the completion of the secretariat but we didn’t see the money.
“As we speak, we don’t have funds for the completion of the new secretariat. The acting chairman of the NWC would take the issue to the national caucus to know how we can engage the services of developers on some arrangement.”
HOPE OF COMPLETION IN SIGHT?
But the possibility of mobilising contractors back to site to complete the eight year old project appears remote as the once ruling party is enmeshed in an intractable crisis, which has led to two factions.
A faction is led by a former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, and the other by a former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff.
The completion of the N16 billion new secretariat appears to be the least of their worries.
Cairo Ojougbo, the deputy national chairman of the Ali Sheriff faction of the PDP, said there are other matters to attend to.
He explained to PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview that the party was facing other weightier matters, apparently referring to the protracted leadership crisis which began mid-2016.
Mr. Ojougbo, a former member of the House of Representatives, said the two factions had intensified efforts to resolve the crisis before the end of next month after which it would think of any abandoned project.
He said, “We’re working on all fronts to reconcile. We are tired of the crisis. All of us are tired and we want to re-unite as a family. You know PDP is the biggest party in Africa, even bigger than ANC in South Africa.
“We’re waiting for the Court of Appeal to deliver judgement on the matter and whichever faction wins, it will be a precursor for reconciliation. I am sure before the end of February we will be able to achieve that. It is only then we think about completing the secretariat.”
REMIUM TIMES could not get comments from the officials of the Makarfi faction.
Dayo Adeyeye, spokesperson of the faction, at first responded to our SMS for inquiry to say he was out of town and would talk to us when he returned last week.
However, he neither picked subsequent calls to his mobile phone nor responded to SMS sent to him.
Similarly, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Walid Jubril, did not also respond to our repeated calls.
The faction’s National Secretary, Ben Obi, a former senator, refused to comment when contacted on phone.
Beside the crisis in the PDP, some members of the party are currently facing corruption charges, which could make it difficult for them to mobilise resources to complete the N16 billion 12-storey edifice.