Labour Party’s Abure in Eye of the Storm

Labour Party’s Abure in Eye of the Storm

Chuks Okocha reports that the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Mr Julius Abure, has described as spurious and unfounded allegations of forgery and misappropriation of funds levelled against him by the party’s National Treasurer, Oluchi Oparah.

This is not the best of times for the National Chairman  of the Labour Party, Mr Julius Abure, as he is daily embroiled in one controversy after another. This certainly does not portray the party in the best of public image.

Recently, he was accused of forging the signatures of some political aspirants in Ebonyi and Plateau States.

Now, it has taken another dimension. This time around, it is financial allegations. Allegations coming from no other person than the national treasurer of the party, Mrs Oluchi Oparah. The Exchequer of the Labour party who is supposed to be 100% in the know of the party’s finances accused Abure of forging the signatures of the party’s late national chairman, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam to withdraw funds totalling N21 million.

Before this most recent allegation, a governorship aspirant of the party from Ebonyi state, Mr. Eze Oko, had accused the Party’s National Chairman of alleged forgery and conspiracy that led to his replacement few days to the March 18 gubernatorial election.

Specifically, Oko alleged that at the heat of political activities leading to the gubernatorial election in Ebonyi state, the national chairman initiated moves to illegally remove him as the gubernatorial candidate with an alleged forged withdrawal letter submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).

Oko said his complaint led to a series of forensic investigations by the Nigeria Police Force, which, according to him, found Abure guilty of forgery.

He, therefore, called on the Labour Party National Executive Council (NEC) and National Working Committee (NWC) to initiate disciplinary action against Julius Abure and others indicted by the Nigeria Police Investigation.

In the same vein, operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command, had sometime ago arrested Abure, over alleged fraud linked to the party’s governorship primary in Plateau State.

It was gathered that his arrest followed a criminal complaint against him by one Yohanna Margif, who accused Abure of forgery. Magif, a governorship aspirant of the LP in the 2023 governorship election in Plateau State, alleged in a complaint to the Police that Abure forged his signature on a letter where he (Margif) is supposed to have withdrawn from the governorship primaries.

Whereas, the embattled LP National chairman has been released on bail after the police obtained his statement, it will be recalled that Murphy Imasuen, an LP House of Representatives aspirant for Orhionmwon/Uhunmwonde federal constituency in the 2023 general election in Edo State, also accused Abure of forging his signature in similar circumstances.

The Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), which investigated the matter, had recommended that Abure be prosecuted after it was confirmed by the Chief Registrar of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

In his defence, Abure described the allegations of forgery against him and members of his executive in Ebonyi, Edo, and other states prior to the 2023 general elections as unfounded.

Abure, who said the allegations were the handiwork of desperate politicians to weaken the resolve of the Nigerian people invested in the Labour Party, championed the narrative with the intent to distract himself and the executive from focusing on the elections.

He stated that the attention required from his office to prosecute the 2023 elections was huge, and he deferred the visit to the police station on the unfounded allegation.

According to him, updates in the police investigations over the various allegations have exposed the lies and empty orchestration against his person and the dream to better Nigeria through the Labour Party.

He pointed out that all the persons who alleged that they were wrongly changed from being the party flag bearers for the various positions as governor or for legislative seats in Ebonyi, Imo, Edo states were mere placeholders, a scheme adopted by the party at the time to secure the seats for the party to be able to field candidates in the elections.

He said, “I will limit these clarifications to instances. People have come up in the social media space, even on television houses, to say that they were erroneously substituted in the just concluded general elections.

“I want to say very clearly here that no candidate of the party was illegally substituted. No person’s signature was forged. Those persons who are making these allegations, no doubt, are those who have been procured by our adversaries and those who are afraid of the fortunes of the party and are therefore working to disorganize the party.

“The so-called Splendour Eze from Ebonyi State who claimed to be a candidate of the party and was wrongly substituted was never a candidate of the party.

“He visited my office one day in the company of the suspended youth leader, Ansalem Eragbe, sometime in May asking me to give them an opportunity to participate in the party”.

And to make things worse, these allegations kept coming. The latest is financial impropriety that  has been added to the series of allegations against Abure.

The national treasurer of the  party, Mrs. Olzuchi Oparah, accused Abure of misappropriating the sum of N 3.5 billion being proceeds of sales of forms for the 2023 general elections.

She also alleged that  Abure attempted to bribe her with a car and a house which she refused.

According to Oparah, “As National Treasurer, I am constrained to come before you and the public today because the internal mechanisms of our party have failed woefully to bring Mr Abure to account for his brazen abuse of office and misappropriation of party funds. His appetite for power has grown unchecked, and he has deliberately undermined my duties and authority as stipulated in the party’s constitution.

“Since assuming office in 2021, Mr Abure has engaged in a series of actions that not only undermine the principles upon which the Labour Party was founded but also constitute grave violations of trust and fiduciary responsibility.

“Despite my role as National Treasurer and custodian of all party funds, bank and accounting records, I have been systematically prohibited from fulfilling my duties, including accessing essential information and bank statements necessary for proper financial oversight. This deliberate obstruction hinders my ability to carry out my responsibilities”.

Buttressing her point, the national treasurer posed some salient questions to the national chairman, saying, “I urge Mr Abure to immediately answer the following:

“Provide documentation for the N3.5 billion raised from the sale of forms for the 2023 elections and why Edo State proceeds went into private accounts.

“Account for the N958 million raised from off-cycle elections in 2023. Provide paper trails and documentary evidence of adherence to due process.

“Declare every single dollar raised from the 2023 US fundraising tour and provide documentation on where donations were warehoused and how same was appropriated.

“Explain the source of funds for properties bought in Nigeria and abroad between 2022 and 2023. Provide paper evidence.

“Allow me unfettered access to party accounts and records as National Treasurer.

“Submit to an independent forensic audit of our party’s finances, to be conducted by a reputable international firm.

“Explain why he has deliberately undermined my authority and flouted the Labour Party’s constitution and provide evidence that he has not abused his office for personal enrichment or abuse of power.

“The Labour Party belongs to its broad membership, not a single individual. I urge Mr Abure to do the honourable thing and submit himself to a transparent process that will restore confidence, trust, and integrity in our party’s financial dealings.”, she stated

When THISDAY contacted Abure for his comments on the allegations levelled against him by the national  treasurer, he asked about what  the allegations were about and our reporter told him it had to do with allegations of misappropriating of funds.

He told our reporter to call back later as he was in a meeting. Since then, he refused to pick his call.

But later, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh, issued a statement to state Abure’s side of the various allegations raised saying: “We want to say that the National Treasurer who is certainly under some external influences merely read out a concocted statement drafted by our detractors to further tar the image of the party.

“With the exception of the National Treasurer whose tenure is about to end in few weeks time, and who has served for eight years as National Treasurer without a single record of party accounts, no other member of the national working committee has raised any issue of embezzlement against our National Chairman who made a pledge on assumption that the party has to be revamped. Evidence is our proactive outing in the 2023 general election as the party presented for the first time a very good presidential candidate.

“Let it be said that the Labour Party has not earned N3.5 billion as claimed and that the National Chairman has not embezzled any money that belongs to the party as alleged.

The records are there, except that Ms Oluchi Opara don’t even understand simple accounting even as a treasurer. An External Auditor is engaged by the party and our account is under constant scrutiny of INEC or other regulatory bodies.”

Ifoh said Abure does not own several houses and property as spuriously alleged by the party’s National Treasurer, even though no law prohibits him from owning properties.

He explained that the constitution of the Labour Party in Article 14:1b provides that the National Chairman shall be the Accounting Officer of the party while 14:1d “Shall approve all expenditures and shall be a signatory to the Party’s Bank account(s).

“Accordingly, Article 14: 6 states that the National Treasurer “Shall receive and promptly pay into the Party’s account(s), all monies received for and on behalf of the Party.

“Shall ensure the preparation of Annual Statement of Account/Reports on finances of the Party including compilation of the Party’s Assets and liabilities and make same available to the National Executive Council from time to time. Shall be a co-signatory to the Party Account(s).

“These sections are clear as to the duty of the national chairman apart from providing leadership. The duty of the National Treasurer is also clearly spelt out.

“In the past, the party didn’t have accounting books or method as it was ran by the then chairman and Ms Oluchi, the Treasurer. They were only accountable to themselves, but with the emergence of the Abure-led executive, and the growth of the party, it became imperative for the party to structure its accounting method and policy. This of course didn’t go down well with the National Treasurer whose financial source was shut down.

“The party can understanding her vituperations but we can’t help her situation moreso when her time in the NWC is running out. Her wish to cash out was not granted and her subtile effort to push the leadership to ‘settle’ her was rejected hence her resolve to fight dirty.”

Accordingly, the spokesman of the party recalled that she is alone on this battle. “Several stakeholders have had course to prevail on her to bridle her inordinate ambition but all to no avail. We are surprised that despite all effort to assure her of a future, she still went ahead to align with our detractors and sworn enemies of the party.”

According to the spokesman, the party will definitely take her case to the disciplinary committee where appropriate measures will be taken.

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