Labour Party may sink, chairman Abure arrested

Why we arrested Abure – Police

The National Chairman of the Labour Party, Mr Julius Abure, has been arrested by security operatives in Edo State.

Abure was arrested on Wednesday, a few days before the party’s primary election in Edo State.

 

He was arrested by operatives of the Zone 5 police headquarters in Benin, Edo State.

 

A crowd had gathered at the entrance, with only police officers and a few VIPs allowed inside.

It was gathered that his arrest was the result of a petition forwarded to the Zone from the office of the Inspector General of Police in Abuja.

 

Abure was captured in viral videos and pictures being forcibly handled by police officers, while his supporters from the LP party tried to intervene to stop his arrest.

 

Confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Zone, Tijani Momoh, said, “There is a standing order for now that nobody should come in.

“Yes, the Labour Party National Chairman is here and it has to do with a petition that was referred to this office from the Inspector General of Police.

“It was referred to Zone 5 from the IG’s office, he is with us but I cannot give the contents of the petition right now.”

 

When asked if he was being detained or just to take his statement, Momoh said, “I don’t know for now.”

 

Abure has been having running battles with some members of the party in the state over allegations of substituting candidates in the 2023 general election without the consent of the affected aspirants, an allegation he has denied.

It was also gathered that the arrest may be connected to the factional crisis rocking the party as a factional national youth leader was recently brutalised by some suspected members of the party.

 

Abure has also come under fire for allegedly mishandling party funds.

 

Yesterday, the 36 state chairmen of the Labour Party dismissed the corruption allegation levelled against  Julius Abure.

The chairmen said, ‘No money was missing.’

 

The council of state chairmen also backed the call by the LP presidential candidate, Peter Obi, for an independent firm to carry out a forensic audit of the party account, adding that they are convinced the audit will clear Abure.

 

The development comes one week after the National Treasurer of the party, Oluchi Oparah, (now suspended) challenged the LP chairman to account for N3.5bn raised from the sale of nomination forms and fundraising activities in the build-up to the 2023 general election.

Opara also claimed Abure didn’t remit the donations received from Nigerians in the Diaspora during Obi’s campaign tour in the United States.

But Abure denied all her allegations when he was featured on Arise News as a guest on Thursday morning.

 

Armed with some documents and copies of cheques allegedly signed by the treasurer, Abure lamented that the corruption allegations against him were orchestrated to dent his image.

 

Rising from an emergency meeting held at the national secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday, Chairman of Labour Party Council of State Chairmen, Ceekay Igara, lamented that it was unfortunate how the National Working Committee allowed external forces to create a crisis to unsettle the party they painstakingly built.

Igara also denied that the council was behind the vote of no confidence passed on Abure on Sunday by a group.

 

While backing the call for a forensic audit of the party account, the council chairman said it was convinced that no money was misappropriated as against the claim of the suspended national treasurer.

 

He said, “The audit report prepared by the external auditor is very clear about the finances of the party. Let me emphatically state here that our money is not missing. We didn’t generate N3.5b as claimed by the now-suspended national treasurer.

“We can confirm that the party only realised N1.3 million during the 2023 general election and another N700m donation, which was used by the Presidential Campaign Council.

“All these monies were lodged in the banks and were promptly receipted. The audit is also clear about the money generated during the off-season elections and how it was managed. From the records, virtually all the cheques were signed by her and the national chairman. It is obvious she may have been influenced to lie against the national chairman.

 

“Our leader, Peter Obi, has mediated privately on this matter. He is also aware that the sustained attacks against Abure are sponsored and politically motivated. His decision to involve an independent auditor is a welcome development and we believe that the outcome will exonerate Julius Abure as well as expose the lies being peddled by the suspended treasurer.”

 

Opara, in a telephone interview with PUNCH on Sunday, asked Abure to give an account of the funds raised during the LP presidential campaign tour in the US.

 

Opara said, “Abure used the name of the party to raise funds during the United States campaign tour. They reflected in all the documents and tickets I printed out. We have the tickets for $500 and $100 in the name of the party. But Abure returned and didn’t drop a dime. We are talking about a man who uses proxy accounts to withdraw money from the party.

“Again, for 10 to 11 months, Abure has been the only one withdrawing the money. I don’t know how he does it, whether by forgery or other means. We are three signatories to the accounts but the third person, a former chairman, is dead now.”

 

When contacted, Abure denied any wrongdoing, saying Opara was merely out to tarnish his image.

He said, “We made changes to the account. That was how we were able to run the party from January 2021 to March 2021 when we had the NEC meeting in Benin, where I emerged as the national chairman of the party. All the money withdrawn between January and March 2021 was co-signed with the acting national chairman, Maria Lebeke.

 

“I was the national secretary at the time and there was no way I could have withdrawn from the account or any person could have withdrawn money without the co-signatory. We brought in the new acting chairman who co-signed all the cheques, Opara equally co-signed the cheques. So, changes of signatories were made and we needed to run the party, and a lot of activities of the party at that time were co-signed by Maria Lebeke, and it is obvious.”

 

LP may Sink

Meanwhile, a Chieftain of the Labour Party, Faduri Oluwadare Joseph, on Friday, warned that the party stands to sink beyond rescue over the current corruption allegations rocking the party.

This was amid allegations of corruption against the LP National Chairman, Julius Abure.

 

Joseph who’s also a presidential aspirant of the LP in the 2023 general election, described the allegations of corruption as unfortunate.

Joseph, also the national leader of the Rescue Movement for New Nigeria, noted that the allegations of misappropriation of the presidential campaign funds were not good for the party.

 

This was contained in a statement by the National Director, Media and Publicity of Rescue Movement for New Nigeria, Rev. Emmanuel Olorunmagba, released to newsmen in Kaduna State on Friday.

 

The LP chieftain expressed concern that the party Nigerians were looking up to had been enmeshed in monumental corruption allegations to the chagrin of all.

He added that the LP must be rescued, warning that the corruption allegations against Abure, must not be swept under the carpet.

He also queried the financial report released to Nigerians describing it as “shameful” which depicted the mismanagement of donations from Nigerians.

 

He said, “The Labour Party that Nigerians were looking out for to rescue the country is now languishing in monumental corruption allegations as well as financial misappropriation obvious in the record on the presidential campaign funds released by Peter Obi. Thus, the Labour Party now needs to be rescued

“The issue of repeated financial mismanagement, embezzlement, forgery, and other allegations of corruption allegedly against Labour Party National Chairman, Julius Abure, is so terrible and should not be swept under the carpet.

“However, that will be a discussion for another day. But I will call on the appropriate government authority to carry out a proper investigation into the monumental allegations and ensure justice is done.

 

“There are pertinent questions begging for answers such as how sensible is it that N744.5 million was claimed to have been spent for legal fees for the election petition tribunal when the amount said to have been spent on running the whole election is less than half of that?

“We are aware of some lawyers that offered services for Labour Party pro bono, then how did what was spent on the presidential election petition amount to that?.”

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