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Governor Peter Obi Offers To Repay Funds On Behalf Of Embattled ASA-USA Leaders

SaharaReporters has learned of a bizarre offer by Governor Peter Obi of Anambra to use public funds to make full financial restitution for questionable expenses made by officials of the Anambra State Association of USA (ASA-USA), especially the group’s current president, Allison Anadi. Two members of ASA-USA have filed a case in a California Court to compel Mr. Anadi, a former professor of criminal justice, and three of his officials to account for the association’s funds and explain their expenditures. The three other defendants are Jonathan Okafor, Victor Nwanso, and Olisa Oraelosi.

SaharaReporters has learned of a bizarre offer by Governor Peter Obi of Anambra to use public funds to make full financial restitution for questionable expenses made by officials of the Anambra State Association of USA (ASA-USA), especially the group’s current president, Allison Anadi. Two members of ASA-USA have filed a case in a California Court to compel Mr. Anadi, a former professor of criminal justice, and three of his officials to account for the association’s funds and explain their expenditures. The three other defendants are Jonathan Okafor, Victor Nwanso, and Olisa Oraelosi.

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The lawsuit accuses Anadi and the three other ASA-USA officials of conspiring to convert and misappropriate the association’s funds. The plaintiffs, Chris Ikeanyi and Pius Okafor, allege in the lawsuit that the officials conspired to convert various sums belonging to the association, including a $60,000 donation made to ASA-USA by Ifeanyi Uba, a controversial businessman with aspirations to become the next governor of Anambra.   
SaharaReporters has received credible reports that the Governor is set to spray money big time on the crises. Our sources state that the Governor has promised to pay all the expenses of litigation so far on both sides, as well as pay whatever money embattled ASA-USA President Allison Anadi and his co-defendants are alleged to have embezzled.

In return, Governor Obi is demanding that the plaintiffs withdraw the case they filed in California. “In an attempt to make his offer appealing, Governor Peter Obi indicated his willingness to pay the legal fees owed to attorneys on both sides,” one of our sources disclosed.

Several of our sources questioned Governor Obi’s wasteful use of public funds to rescue four men accused of misappropriation from the legal consequences of their alleged action. On Friday, May 3, 2013, SaharaReporters broke the news that Governor Obi had invited thirty-one members of ASA-USA to a hotel in Newark, New Jersey, to discuss constitutional and financial disagreement that triggered the lawsuit against Mr. Anadi and three of his fellow executives. The governor had promised each invited participant $500 as reimbursement for travel expenses. In addition, the state government picked up the tab for each participant’s one day stay in a hotel as well as feeding expenses.

Several key actors in the crises rocking ASA-USA said the governor’s “peace parley” had not only failed but had thrown a monkey wrench at the feud. They criticized the governor’s misplaced priorities and questionable use of public funds. But the governor defended his actions in a speech that one participant described as “long and meandering but short on substance.”

In the speech, Governor Obi insisted that he had come to the US in order to defend “the Anambra brand.” He bemoaned our reports of his wasteful spending and defiantly vowed to spend more money in a quest to settle the feud in the association. Governor Obi even said that he would bring along some traditional rulers on future visits to ensure the success of his bid to reconcile the factions and protect the “Anambra brand.”

At the meeting, Mr. Obi also advised Mr. Anadi and three other defendants to fall on their knees and beg the plaintiffs and their support to drop the lawsuit.

Several participants at the Newark meeting as well as sources close to the plaintiffs roundly condemned Mr. Obi for suggesting that the defendants beg. They said they had expected that the governor would urge the defendants to render a full account as demanded by the plaintiffs as well as a majority of the association’s members.

“Governor Obi’s role in this matter is becoming more curious every day,” said one source. “In New Jersey, His Excellency had an opportunity to ask Professor Anadi and his team to come clean. The governor wasted the opportunity.” Another source told SaharaReporters: “It seems that Governor Obi thinks that defending the Anambra brand is about letting accused embezzlers off the hook. That is not a good brand to advertise or defend. Many of us in ASA-USA believe that the Anambra brand should be about accountability, responsibility and irreproachable leadership.”

Governor Obi’s latest proposal has left many members of the former watchdog association livid with anger.  

“The people of Anambra lack a lot of basic amenities,” said one member of ASA-USA. “Yet, the governor wants to spend perhaps $200,000 to settle a case that is already in court. Should that be a priority for a state that is investing far too little money to tackle healthcare, education, water supply and so on? By the way, who authorized the governor to make that expenditure? Has he received approval from the state assembly to use state funds to settle an internal dispute within ASA-USA that is before the court?”

Another source spoke even more angrily, stating that he and a few aggrieved members of ASA-USA are planning to talk to a lawyer about deposing Governor Obi when next he shows up in the US on a mission to settle the ASA-USA feud. “It is time to depose the governor under oath and find out what his interest is in this matter,” said the source, a pharmacist. He added: “If Governor Obi doesn’t know, then somebody needs to inform him that ASA-USA is a legal entity in the US and operates under US law. If anybody is accused of embezzling ASA-USA’s funds, it is no longer a matter of asking that person to go and beg. Or for the governor to refund the money and close the case. That is the way they do things in Nigeria, but America is different. He’s playing with legal fire in this case. And his friends should warn him because this is not Nigeria where he enjoys executive immunity.”

The Governor is quoted to have said in the failed peace parley in Newark, New Jersey that “no amount is too big to ensure that the Anambra brand is not tarnished.”

Our correspondent spoke with Chris Aniedobe who was the legal adviser for ASA-USA for eight years. He stated that ASA-USA “has been bedeviled from birth by deeply embedded structural deficits.” He added that those inborn deficits had for over ten years defied every attempt to straighten out in-house. He added that it would be unwise to pull the matter out of the California Court to the same forum where efforts at resolution had failed over many years.

The association’s ex-legal adviser, who said he did not mind being identified, also lamented that Governor Obi did not appear to appreciate that the association was founded as a watchdog entity and needed a strong and authoritative voice to carry out her core mission. He recalled that the association’s voice of defiance stood against former Deputy Governor Virgy Etiaba, who served briefly as the state’s interim governor, and Andy Uba, who for a brief period of time became governor in a controversial election.

Mr. Aniedobe regretted that Governor Obi, who once benefited from a vociferous and defiant ASA-USA, now seemed not to realize the association’s “excessive entanglement” with the Government House “has killed the only credible nonpolitical voice of the voiceless masses of Anambra State.”

His views were echoed by the leader of an affiliate branch of ASA-USA. “Money is the only language they speak in Nigeria and money is the only language they understand in Nigeria and Governor Obi believes that throwing money at every problem will make it eventually go away,” he said. He added: “This is Naija-style politics and he should not bring that to the United States where money is not everything. The governor may be putting his integrity on the line and appears to be saying that money is greater than integrity.”

Another “stakeholder” and a member of the association’s House of Delegates told SaharaReporters that his branch “has already served the current ASA-USA leaders a vote of no confidence.” He added: “We’re prepared to leave the association because it now has incurable typhoid malaria as a result of being bitten by many political mosquitoes.”

The source said he saw a race by politicians to pocket ASA-USA. “Chief Ifeanyi Uba, a political adversary of Peter Obi, sprayed over $70,000 dollars at the association in 2012 which Professor Anadi happily took and allegedly mismanaged. And now Peter Obi is about to spray his own money at the association to compete with Ifeanyi Uba in the race for who will finally pocket the voice of the association as Anambra gubernatorial election draws near in the Fall of this year. Unfortunately, after the election, they will dump the association. This is all Nigerian politics brought into America.”

Asked if entanglement with politicians was the crux of the problem facing ASA-USA, Mr. Aniedobe stated that the erstwhile watchdog association had sadly degenerated “into a government agency in the Department of Medical Mission,” referring to the annual medical mission of the association that believed to be heavily subsidized by the state government and politicians.

Other sources agreed, stating that the association could not credibly run programs that are heavily subsidized by politicians and the Government House in Awka and still hope to maintain its watchdog mission. One source stated, “For Governor Peter Obi to squander so much money on ASA-USA is like a poison pill that will kill the Association.”

Another self-proclaimed stakeholder added, “ASA-USA and politicians were never designed to mix. That is why we went to Court to remove the current administration which is so heavily in bed with politicians.”

SaharaReporters learned that a “reform team” had emerged from the ranks of disaffected members. One member of the team accused Mr. Obi of hypocrisy. “Peter Obi is a man whom we begged to remove his case against Dr. Ngige in court so that we settle it internally and he refused.  Now he is willing to throw money about so that a dispute that has hobbled ASA and defied every attempt to resolve before we finally went to court would be brought out of court again.”

Another member told SaharaReporters that he was irate at the list of questionable financial expenditures by the Anadi group. “We are talking about mixing up politicians’ money with personal money; we are talking about issuing fraudulent reports; we are talking about using $1000 to gold-frame a picture; we are talking about one million naira allegedly used to make T-shirts; we are talking about the president billing us $12,000 dollars in three months for travels to Nigeria. In short, we are talking about a board that has zero constitutional powers to check those excesses. We are talking about misappropriating money we set aside for building a secretariat.  We are talking about running ASA-USA with the same excesses they run every failed institution in Nigeria. We cannot tell the difference between the way they run ASA-USA and the way they run APGA.  It is all politics now and Peter Obi sees nothing wrong with that either because that is how he operates or his motive is to pocket the association for political reasons. In short, the Governor is not showing that his brand is accountability and transparency but something else.”

The “reform” source described ASA-USA as an association “that may never recover from the Intensive Care Unit where it is now on life support,” adding that Governor Obi’s ill-advised intervention might embolden the embattled Anadi and his co-defendants to stiffen in their position, inviting a stiffer fight to remove them. He added that the ensuing fight might either spell doom for the association or lead to a revamped ASA-USA that can reclaim its watchdog role. The source said his group was insisting on three Rs: resignation, restitution (by Anadi and his executive), and reformation of the association. He added that several groups were prepared to file other lawsuits if the plaintiffs in the current one ever bowed to Governor’s Obi’s attempt to truncate full accountability. “We must produce the desired result of redirecting ASA-USA back to her core mission,” said the source.

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