Few days ago, members of a hitherto unknown group called the New Peoples Democratic Party Reformation Coalition stormed the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abuja to protest against the party’s National Vice Chairman, South-South, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh.
Though the PDP made a clean sweep of the South-South zone during the last general election and posted the best result for the party out of the six geopolitical zones, the protesters insisted that the continued stay of Ojougboh, on whose watch PDP cleared the zone, would help to destroy PDP.
The National Coordinator of the group, one Danelsi Momoh called on the party national leadership to curtail the activities of Ojougboh and that if his activities in the South-South was not checked, it would not only weaken the operations of PDP, but also sent the party to oblivion.
Members of the group alleged that Ojougboh was planning to contest for the position of the national chairman of the party and that he would ruin the platform if elected.
“Behind the threat to the PDP is the inordinate ambition of one man, PDP Vice Chairman, South-South zone, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, in his quest to hijack the party for his selfish interest has contrived all manner of crisis to make sure the PDP dies,” the group alleged.
“It appears the plan is for Dr. Ojougboh to weaken the PDP and if possible rush it into oblivion to allow the APC operate without any credible opposition and thus set the ground for a large-scale misrule of the country.”
However, political observers differ on the true mission of the protesters since they did not provide any verifiable evidence of the “activities” of Ojougboh that is inimical to the growth of PDP. If political observers are divided on the agenda of the protesters the man at the centre of the entire drama is definite on what prompted the protest.
Reacting to the protest at a press conference in Abuja, Dr. Ojougboh said it is not unconnected to a petition he just sent to President Muhammadu Buhari over the controversial Centenary City in Abuja. In the petition Dr. Ojougboh had pleaded with President Buhari to investigate the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, over alleged multibillion naira scam.
Dr. Ojougboh, in a five-page letter, dated July 21, to President Buhari, alleged that the Centenary City project in Abuja, which was built by the Federation Government but which construction was coordinated by the former SGF as part of the activities to mark Nigeria’s 100 years as nation, was a scam.
He said the government had no equity in the project and that Chief Anyim, a former senate president, was the sole owner of the 3000 acres of the land owned by the Centenary City.
At the press conference, Ojougboh who is a former member of the House of Representatives, alleged that Chief Anyim sponsored the protest over some outstanding issues between him (former SGF) and the Nigerian Export Zonal Authority, NEPZA) whose board he (Ojougboh) chaired.
He said Anyim failed to answer questions relating to his personal interest in the Centenary City, and whether he declared such interest to the Federal Government.
Ojougboh asked, “According to the NEPZA Act, does the Centenary City qualify as a free zone? Does the law establishing FCT allow for a free zone, is it in the Abuja Master Plan?
“How did Pius Anyim obtain N1.2 billion he paid from his company’s account as resettlement fees? Is the money from the NDDC? On whose custody is the C of O of the Centenary City?”
Ojougboh said the protest by the group showed “how desperate the former SGF and former Senate President can go to cling unto his spoil of office without putting into consideration the millions of Nigerians he is depriving of the dividends of democracy.”
He said a few days ago, Anyim announced that he had sued him (Ojougboh) for N1 billion and that when that did not intimidate him, he (Anyim) immediately resorted to crude tactics and blackmail.
“These activities of Pius Anyim are pure anti-party activity and accusing a senior member of his party of this heinous act is bringing the party to dishonour,” he said. “I urge Senator Pius Anyim to seek the path of truth, own up to being the sole owner of the Centenary City and return same to the good people of Nigeria.”
Ojougboh said he had instructed his lawyers to petition the Government of United Arab Emirate, the Nigerian Immigration Service, European Union, the German Government and the African Human Rights Commission over the issue.
In the petition to President Buhari, the former lawmaker recounted how he was appointed NEPZA chairman by former President Goodlcuk Jonathan after the 2011 elections.
He said on October 24, 2014, he got a petition from MC Pal Consult, an Abuja-based law firm accusing NEPZA of misappropriation of funds, corruption and impunity.
Some of the allegations, according to him, were the alleged misappropriation of $5 billion paid to NEPZA and that the entity called Centenary City was an affiliate of NEPZA and that it (NEPZA) failed to disclose the interest of the promoters of the project to Nigerians.
Ojougboh said on December 21, 2014, he also received another petition from the Anti-Corruption Network led by Senator Dino Melaye alleging that ‘the idea of certifying the Centenary City as a free zone was to give import duty waiver to the owners of the project through the backdoor”.
He told said that his initial response was to ignore the two petitions thinking they were frivolous and lacking merit.
He said when Senator Melaye later addressed a world press conference, he recognized the severity of the matter and immediately got in touch with the Managing Director of NEPZA, Gbenga Kuye, for his response to the allegations.
“He said when Mr. Kuye feigned ignorance of the issues raised he asked the board of NEPZA to convene a meeting.
“Senator Anyim Pius, a former Secretary to the Federal Government ordered the MD of NEPZA, Mr. Gbenga Kuye not to allow the board meeting to hold within the premises of NEPZA. The board then relocated the meeting to the Transcorp Hilton Hotel,” Dr. Ojougboh said.
He said the Certificate of Occupancy of the free trade zones are kept in the custody of the Federal Government via NEPZA but that it was not the case with the Centenary City, which he alleged was used as collateral to obtain loan from banks.
He also told the president that he has “since discovered the landed property appropriated in the name of the Federal Government by the scammers alone is worth more than four billon dollars ($4bn USD). This is contradictory to the estimate value which Senator Pius Anyim declared in ThisDay interview. The question then: Why would he want to deceive Nigerians as to the actual value of the Centenary City Project.”
Ojougboh alleged that as a result of the agitation on the eligibility of the Centenary City Project, the former SGF “persecuted me, recommended and ensured that I was removed as chairman of the board of NEPZA”.
He added that after a thorough investigation he carried out on the various substantive issues raised by the scam, he raised an internal party memo to former President Goodluck Jonathan in April last year denouncing the scam and elucidated on its ramification to the nation.
He said, “I also informed the President that Senator Pius Anyim has been in clear breach of the extant civil service rules on procedure and ethics as he was the sole owner of the Centenary City Project and operated the scam through his surrogate company, Messrs Company First Nigeria.
“Also worthy of note is the obfuscation implicit in the scam by Senator Anyim of the names of prominent individuals and organisations e.g. General Abdulsalam Abubakar, Abubakar Kayode, etc as nominal directors of the company while warehousing the entirety of the equity of the companies in the names of the two principal aides of namely Messrs Esther Onaji and Jonathan Onah.
“The role played by Julius Berger Plc in the whole shenanigan was confusing as one of their staff by name Mr. George Marks was conspicuously listed as a director to further lend credibility to the farce of the investment vehicle being a reputable corporate entity.”
Dr Ojougbioh however exonerated former President Jonathan, saying “Yes, the former President signed the papers as was presented to him by the former secretary of the Government SGF, he was not properly briefed because of vested interests, I can defend him, he was not part of the fraud. If Jonathan had been properly briefed he would not have approved the project not to talk of going to perform the ground breaking of the project. “The former President thought that the Centenary city was for the good of all Nigerians because of the centenary spirit. Unknown to him, it was the private project of the former SGF and his cohorts. I am calling on President Buhari now to revisit the centenary project and he will be shocked at the findings that the project was owned by a private individual but procured with government funds.”
When contacted for his reaction to the petition, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim said he is heading to court and will meet Ojougboh there.
Anyim, who spoke through media aide, Sam Nwaobasi said, “‎The issue is already is in court. Senator Anyim has gone to court to sue him for defamation on the previous press conference and interviews that he has granted in which he has accused of almost all these things you said he is saying now.
“So the matter is already in court and senator Anyim does not wish to join issues with him on matters that are already in court. Senator did raise to go and protest against Cairo Ojougboh. There is no need for such thing. What he thinks and what he knows is very civilised.
“Since he feels aggrieved by what Cario has been saying and writing against him, he is pursuing a very civilised cause of going to the court to plead his case and that offers Cairo the same opportunity to defend himself. So he cannot resort to engaing people to demonstrate which does not in any way mean anything to him. He did not, he will not, it is not his character to him to do. So whatever Cairo Ojougboh is making, he will have an opportunity in court to explain all of those and then plead his case.
“As far as Senator Anyim is in concern, the matter is in court and he does not wish to join issues with Cairo in matters that are already in court.”
Since the sordid details of the Centenary City became public knowledge political observers are of the view that President Buhari should look beyond the politics that is intertwined in the squabble between Ojougboh and Anyim and investigate the entire affair.
There are talks that if Buhari should investigate the affair it may be misconstrued as witch-hunting of political opponents. But this should not be so as the over 3,000 plots of land is the commonwealth of every Nigerian and President Buhari will have the backing of Nigerians to get to the root of the matter.
Abuja is a city where majority of the dwellers have no access to land and it is unthinkable that an individual or a group of high profile individuals should corner over 3, 000 plots of land. The most disheartening aspect of the whole saga is that some civil servants were already allocated part of that particular land before the idea of Centenary City came up.
The earlier allocation given to these civil servants and other hapless Nigerians were revoked in favour of the promoters of the Centenary City. The least Nigerians expect from President Buhari is for him to order a holistic probe of the allegations and issues raised in Dr. Ojougboh’s petition.

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