Numerous US-based indigenes of Anambra State are questioning the decision of Governor Peter Obi to make a trip to the US in what the governor described as an attempt to resolve disputes between some members of the Anambra State Association of USA (ASA-USA) and four officials of the association.
Aggrieved members have filed a lawsuit in a California court accusing the president of the association, Allison Anadi, and three other officials of conspiring to convert and misappropriate the association’s funds. The three other defendants are Jonathan Okafor, Victor Nwanso, and Olisa Oraelosi.
The plaintiffs, Chris Ikeanyi and Pius Okafor, allege in the lawsuit that Mr. Anadi, a former professor of criminal justice, and his fellow defendants conspired to convert various sums belonging to the association, including a $60,000 donation made to ASA-USA by Ifeanyi Uba, a controversial businessman who is one of many candidates aspiring to become the next governor of Anambra.
In an email to 31 members of the association residing in different parts of the US, Governor Obi invited them to a peace meeting scheduled for 8:30 p.m. today, May 3, 2013 at the Hilton Newark Airport Hotel in Newark, New Jersey.
The governor’s letter, sent on his behalf by special assistant Valentine Obienyem, offered invitees $500 each to cover their flight tickets. In addition, the governor disclosed that the state government would cover hotel and feeding expenses for one night for each invited guest.
The full text of the governor’s email, obtained by SaharaReporters from several of the invited guests, read:
PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES IN ASA-USA
The above subject matter which has been brought to my attention refers.
As the Governor of Anambra State, I am saddened by the challenges in ASA-USA. ASA-USA is one of the progressive associations of Anambra people in the Diaspora. Over the years, your concern and readiness to partner with us in the development of our State has been applauded. Your yearly medical mission is an innovation other States are now emulating.
It is disheartening to learn of the division among you, which has led to what can be described as INTERNET war, as well as court actions.
As the Governor of Anambra State, who has been close to you, and bearing in mind that no meaningful development can take place in the atmosphere of disunity, I appeal to you that it is about time we sat together as brothers and sisters and discuss the problems facing ASA-USA and see ways to amicably resolve the misunderstanding.
Though this may be difficult for you and me, considering everybody’s tight
schedule, I plan to come to the USA on May 3rd, 2013 for this purpose and wish to extend the invitation to you to be part of the meeting as follows:
Venue: Hilton Newark Airport Hotel, 1170 Spring Street, Elizabeth, New Jersey, Phone 908-351-3900
Date: Friday, 3rd May, 2013
Please note that there will be a flat rate of $500 refund for the local flights of all those invited. The one night room and board will also be covered.
Kindly accept assurances of my highest regards as we work together for peace and progress of our State.
Contacted by SaharaReporters, five of the invited members indicated their readiness to travel to New Jersey to meet with the governor, even though most of them questioned its wisdom. “I will go despite the short notice,” said one of them. Asked whether they would accept the $500.00, they all answered in the affirmative. One of them jokingly said the payment was “part of my national cake.”
Several of them agreed that Governor Obi’s visit and the expense of hosting the talks constitute wasteful expenditure of scarce public funds. “The matter should be left in the hands of the court in California that is handling it,” one said.
Another invited guest said, “Governor Obi has said this is a peace mission, but I think it is nothing more than a jamboree.” Even so, he said he decided to attend the meeting in order to “watch and see what the governor is up to and to be able to expose the way our funds are squandered.”
We also spoke to two invitees who said they have no plans to attend today’s meeting with Governor Obi. “The case in court is going well,” one said yesterday. He added, “Just today, the judge gave a temporary order restraining Dr. Anadi and his fellow defendants not to utilize the funds of ASA-USA in paying their attorneys and not to use our funds to travel again. I don’t think the governor’s intervention at this point will serve any purpose.”
Both sources opined that Governor Peter Obi should have used the money he voted for this trip to solve some of the serious problems facing the people of his state. “The governor spoke about our medical mission in his email. Why not save the money he is wasting and spend it on buying equipment for one or two hospitals in our state?” one source asked.
The source said it was likely the governor’s peace initiative would cost Anambra people more than $100,000 dollars. He said his calculation was based on the governor’s first class tickets as well as the flight tickets of his aides, their hotel and limousine expenses in addition to what the governor promised to offer to those who attend the meeting. “I know that peace is important. But in this day and age, there are other ways of achieving peace without the governor leaving important state matters to journey to America. And does it mean that the governor has solved all the quarrels at home in Anambra? If not, why is he coming here to address us on something that is already in court?” The source dismissed the possibility of the governor’s mediation resulting in the withdrawal of the lawsuit against Mr. Anadi. “It’s impossible to withdraw the lawsuit at this point,” said the source. “The case will go on until we get a full account of what happened to the association’s funds,” he added.
Yesterday, the California court ruled in favor of Chris Ikeanyi and Pius Okafor who are suing to prevent what they claim are further damages and injury to the association through stealing.
In a decision that many aggrieved members regard as a “saver,” the court ordered Anadi, Jonathan Okafor, Victor Nwanso and Olisa Oraelosi never to use any money from the ASA-USA to pay for their attorney’s fees. The judge also ordered them never to use ASA-USA funds to travel again and not to destroy or attempt to destroy the association’s financial records in any cover-up scheme.
In a report that rankled many members. Mr. Anadi claimed that he spent $12,000 of the association’s funds on trips within a space of three months. Jonathan Okafor, the association’s secretary, published an ostensible “comprehensive financial statements” that was widely rejected by members who described it as a “panic” measure and inadequate. Another defendant, Victor Nwanso, who is the association’s financial secretary, then reportedly issued his own accounting records. Confused by the conflicting reports, many of the association’s branches began to distance themselves from the activities of the umbrella organization.
Prior to yesterday’s court ruling against them, Mr. Anadi and other defendants had also lost a bid to stop the lawsuit against them. The judge insisted that on proceeding with their case, dismissing their plea to have the case thrown out on the grounds that they reside outside of California.
Some of the sources said they were wondering why Governor Obi decided to dabble into a case where people are accused of having stolen funds. “It’s poor judgment on the governor’s part,” said a member of the association, a lawyer.
Several sources are expected to provide SaharaReporters with updates about the outcome of Governor Obi’s meeting.