Labour Party crisis gets messier as Oparah drags Abure to court


The financial crisis and allegations of forgery against the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure, is already spinning out of control as the suspended National Treasurer of the party, Oluchi Oparah, has dragged Abure and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to court, urging the court to compel the anti-graft body to investigate the national chairman.

She also urged the court to quash her six months suspension by the party as she was not given fair hearing before she was suspended by the party leadership, who sat in her absence.

In a related development, a former acting national chairman, Maria Lebeke, has also corroborated Oparah’s allegations by accusing Abure of forging her signature when she acted as national chairman after then leader, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, died in December 2020.

Unfortunately, the plight of Abure was worsened on Sunday as chairmen of the party across the 36 states unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in him, and asked him to step down with immediate effect.

However, in suit number FHC/ABj/CS/202/2024 dated February 15, 2024 filed by her lawyer, Emeka Etiaba, SAN, titled: ” Originating summons pursuant to order 3 rule 7 of the federal high court (civil procedure) rules, 2019 and under the inherent jurisdiction of this honourable court, Oparah asked the court whether it was not under the EFCC rules to investigate forgery.

In the affidavit she deposed, Oparah said, “I wrote a letter to the first Defendant (EFCC,) bringing a formal Petition dated the 14” of February, 2024 against the National Chairman of the Labour party Comrade Julius Abure, the 2nd Defendant in this suit for several grievous offences bordering on forgery, embezzlement of the 3rd Defendant’s funds, and abuse of office and failure to account for 3rd Defendant’s funds at his disposal. The letter is annexed as Exhibit A.

“The 2nd Defendant assumed the position of Acting National Chairman in January, 2021 following the demise of his predecessor, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, on the 29th of December, 2020. He subsequently began a pattern of financial recklessness and lack of accountability that has characterised his tenure to date.

“The most grievous act of impropriety by 2nd Defendant pertains to his forgery of the signature of the late Alhaji Abdulsalam, 61 (Sixty-One) days after Abdulsalam’s death with which he withdrew monies from the account of the defendant.

“The 2nd Defendant proceeded to unilaterally sign several bank cheques and depleted the balances in the 3rd Defendant’s Zenith Bank account (Account No.1010984346) without recourse to any other member of the National Working Committee.

“The sum of N14,000,000.00 (Fourteen Million Naira only) had been lodged into the aforementioned account on 18 of February 2022, 51 days after the death of the erstwhile National Chairman.

“Between the 28 of February and 7th of March, 2022, the 2nd Defendant prepared and presented several cheques supposedly counter-signed by the late Alhaji Abdulkadir for payment at the Ceddi Plaza branch of Zenith Bank Plc in Abuja.
‘The monies paid earlier into the referenced account were completely depleted by: the 2 Defendant. The 2nd Defendant unilaterally signed the withdrawal instruments as acting National Secretary and forged the signature of his predecessor, the late Abdulsalam in order to deplete the 3rd Defendant’s funds, without the knowledge of or recourse to the NWC.

“These criminal actions represent the beginning of the high level of corruption that has now come to define the 2nd Defendant’s tenure as National Chairman of the 3rd Defendant,” she stated in the petition to the EFCC and federal high court.

She explained that within the period under review that “large sums of money were raised from the sale of nomination forms for the several elections held ni 2023.

“Apart from proceeds from Edo State (in 2024) which the 2nd Defendant actually diverted to his personal accounts, the 2nd Defendant declared only N55 million out of about N3 billion raised, failing to account for the balance.

“This undeclared balance from sale of nomination forms as well as all donations received from followers and sympathizers of H.E. Peter Obi, remains unaccounted till date and all requests for accountability have been rebuffed by the 2nd Defendant.”

On her part, Lebeke, in an interview by Arise news Television, denied signing any cheque between February 7, 2022 and March 18, 2022, the period when the said Ñ14 million and two instances of N7 million were withdrawn from the account of the party by Abure.

“The cheques between February 7 and March 18, I did not sign them. I only signed the cheques for March 29 meeting in Benin for the National Working Committee members and states chairmen of the party.

“Mr. Abure also forged my signature for the change of signatures as national chairman,” she disclosed in the interview.

Meanwhile, chairmen of the party in the 36 states have unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Abure, and asked him to step down with immediate effect.

The Plateau State chairman of the party, Solomon Ndam, read the position of the party chairmen at a press briefing held in Bauchi State, weekend.

“We extend warm greetings to all faithful members of the Labour Party (LP) of Nigeria and to every Nigerian dedicated to the New Nigeria project. Your commitment and enthusiasm for positive change are truly commendable.

“We stand before you with a profound appreciation for the responsiveness of HE Peter G. Obi, a stalwart in our party, for his swift action in response to the call for the external auditing of the LP accounts. This gesture underscores his unwavering commitment to transparency and the principles of the New Nigeria project.

“However, we find ourselves at a critical juncture, where we must address certain internal matters for the sake of our party’s integrity in the spirit of openness and accountability as elected Chairmen of Labour Party in Nigeria, we wishes to address certain concerns that have come to our attention.

“We are appealing to His Excellency, Peter Obi, Senator Ahmed Datti, and other distinguished personalities within the party to join us in requesting Barr. Julius Abure to step aside.

“This step is essential to facilitate the establishment of an independent investigative panel that will thoroughly examine various allegations, including the misappropriation of funds levelled against him by the Treasurer of our Party and indeed the complaints of forgery and impersonation by aggrieved members.

“It is crucial that no one acts as a judge in his own case, and we believe this measure will ensure a fair and impartial inquiry.

“Furthermore, we want to draw attention to a critical matter that could impact the upcoming off-season election in Edo State. We want to remind the party and the people of Edo State about the potential repercussions if we emerge victorious and these legal complexities surrounding the leadership of the party is not been addressed,” he said.