Abure: Have OBIDIENTS Been Swindled?

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By Akpenvwe Praise

The Labour Party of Nigeria is facing significant turmoil as accusations of widespread financial misconduct by party officials, continue to raise dust. These allegations have thrown a dark cloud on the party, particularly for Nigerians living abroad who generously contributed funds during the 2023 presidential election.

The accusations that funds intended for campaigns and those generated from the sale of forms were allegedly diverted by certain officials for personal gain, have left many diaspora investors feeling duped and disillusioned. This betrayal of trust has sown seeds of doubt and anger among supporters, both within and outside of Nigeria.

The man at the centre of these allegations is the embattled and restrained national chairman, Julius Abure, who continues to swim in troubled waters for almost a year now

Whispers suggest Peter Obi, the party’s presidential candidate, was pressured by angry donors to address the year-long allegations. While he called for an independent audit, critics question the timing and point to Obi’s earlier inaction, which they argue enabled potential theft and damaged the party’s image.

National treasurer Oluchi Oparah, who was recently suspended for whistleblowing, revealed she raised concerns for months and even Obi urged an audit, but Abure rejected it. This fuels criticism of Obi’s delayed response and suggests possible political motives over genuine transparency.

Ms. Oluchi Opara, in an interview with TVC and Arise TV, revealed that she had consistently raised the issue for seven months, seeking external auditing due to discrepancies in the party’s accounts.

In Oparah’s words: “I have written letters for the past seven months and we have met on these issues. Even our national leader (Obi) who is well respected for his integrity has been in our meeting four or five times telling the national chairman of the Labour Party that there is a need for him to do the needful. What am I asking for? Can we get an external auditor to come and audit the account since there are discrepancies here and there and he said no”.

While the audit itself is a step towards addressing the concerns, the Labour Party needs to offer a clear explanation for the seemingly slow response.

Nigerians once saw the Labour Party, led by Peter Obi, as a beacon of hope. Frustrated with the ruling party’s perceived failures, they rallied behind Obi, believing him to be a champion of democracy and a potential “Messiah” who could revive the nation’s economy.

However, allegations of corruption within the Labour Party’s leadership have cast a dark cloud over this optimism. Public trust is shaken as accusations and counter-accusations fly between party officials. This internal turmoil raises serious questions about the party’s commitment to transparency and good governance, the very qualities it once promoted.

The public faces a dilemma. Do they hold onto the fading hope that Obi, a figure largely untainted by these allegations, can still lead the party towards the light? Or does this scandal mark the end of their dreams for a reformed Nigeria under the Labour Party’s banner?

Why Always Abure?

Ms. Oluchi, the party’s treasurer, early this week, dropped a bombshell that sparked widespread questions about why Abure seems to consistently attract negative headlines since assuming office.

Abure has found himself at the center of a storm, facing a barrage of accusations that cast a long shadow over the party’s image and raised serious questions about its financial management and ethical conduct.

Recalled that before the 2023 elections, the Lamidi Apapa led faction of the party accused Obi of playing ethnic card by way of selecting members of the party’s presidential campaign council, mostly dominated by South Easterners and a few others from the North. This decision left the party divided going into the general elections last year.

During the same period, Abure was already embroiled in controversies. Allegations of forged documents used to manipulate candidate lists and even a federal high court seal raised alarms about his methods. Now, fresh accusations paint a damning picture. From stonewalling financial transparency to alleged misappropriation of billions in party funds, arrogance and disregard for rules to potential criminal activity as well as forging of a deceased official signature.

Concerns previously voiced by a rival faction within the party, led by Lamidi Apapa and Abayomi Arabambi seem to have gained disturbing validation.

The specific allegations are deeply concerning. Questions swirl around the alleged disappearance of millions from nomination forms and donations, diverted funds for personal use, and siphoning through unauthorised channels to the tune of N4 billion. Doctoring reports, bribery attempts, and sudden unexplained wealth further fuel the fire of suspicion.

Ms. Oluchi’s claims went beyond mere financial mismanagement. She detailed alleged unauthorised transfers to seemingly unsuspecting individuals and entities, suggesting a systematic scheme to siphon funds for personal gain. The absence of transparent accounting practices only amplifies the worries.

While she was yet to complete her exposé on Abure’s alleged misconduct, Oluchi Oparah was abruptly suspended, raising concerns about fair process and transparency within the Labour Party. Further accusations include Oparah presenting pictures of purportedly ill-gotten mansions linked to Abure, strengthening claims that he treats the party as his personal estate and flouts established procedures.

This is not an isolated incident. Splendour Oko-Eze, a former gubernatorial candidate, earlier called for Abure’s prosecution regarding alleged signature forgery on national newspapers. Splendour was the of Eboyin governorship election who claimed his ticket was sold out to one Engr Nkegu Edward Okereke, the MD of Barcelona Hotel for N400 million.

The case of Hon. Murphy Immasuen, from Abure’s home state, Edo was one that didn’t go down well till certain respected figures in the state intervened to safe his image after allegedly collecting N30 million from the victim.

Yesterday, new evidence emerged about the party’s funds dispute. Former acting national chairman of the party, Maria Labeke’s admission on Arise TV further strengthened accusations of forgery and diversion of party’s funds against Abure, which were previously made by other party members. Her statements have added weight to previous allegations of forged signatures and diverted funds.

Labeke alleges that her signature was not authorised on the party’s bank account between February 7th and March 18th, despite Abure claiming she co-signed cheques during that period. This directly contradicts Abure’s claims on Arise TV.

Furthermore, Labeke painted a disturbing picture of alleged intimidation. She claims Abure forged her signature to remove her from the bank account, replace her with himself, and even informed election authorities of a leadership change without her knowledge. Additionally, she alleged he used thugs to coerce her into signing documents she couldn’t even read and forced her out of office without due process.

April 2023, a court in Nigeria’s capital city suspended Julius Abure from his role as leader of the Labour Party. This action stemmed from accusations against Abure and other party officials involving alleged forgery, false statements, and illegal candidate changes during the previous elections.

The plaintiffs in the case claimed that Abure and his associates fabricated court documents, including receipts and seals, to manipulate the selection of Labour Party candidates for the 2023 elections. These accusations were serious and raised concerns about the legitimacy of the party’s candidate selection process.

But here is the puzzling part: despite the court’s intervention, Abure and the other implicated officials seemingly escaped unscathed. Today, they walk freely, seemingly unaffected, and even continue to hold their official duties. This apparent lack of consequence raises a critical question: what does it say about the Nigerian judicial system?

Is this a case of justice delayed, or perhaps even denied? Does it expose loopholes that allow powerful individuals to skirt the rules? Or is there another explanation entirely.

There are also allegations in the public space that officials at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have been widely involved in aiding Abure and his gangs at Labour Party to carry out these acts.

The lingering uncertainty surrounding this situation leaves a stain on public trust in the institutions meant to uphold fairness and accountability. INEC holds Nigerians the responsibility to investigate some of its staff, especially those at the commission’s headquarters.

Shadow over the Labour Party’s fate, Abure’s troubled tenure, a web of forgery, alleged embezzlement, and power struggles is threatening the existence of the party. These developments come at a critical juncture for the Labour Party. The allegations against Abure threaten to stain the party’s reputation and cast doubt on its commitment to democratic ideals. Specifically, the accusation of forging the deceased national chairman’s signature to withdraw funds has deeply troubled many Nigerians. Someone capable of such an act could equally steal from the death.

That Abure is still sitting tight after all these weighty allegations, creates a situation where an accused individual is overseeing the investigation that intends to look into his alleged official misconducts. This is already raising serious questions about impartiality and the potential for undue influence.

To restore public confidence and ensure a fair and transparent investigation, it is crucial that Abure steps aside for the time being.This would demonstrate the party’s commitment to upholding ethical standards and addressing concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Only through such a process can the party hope to regain public trust and move forward in a positive direction.

It is crucial for the Labour Party to address these allegations with transparency and accountability. A thorough investigation is essential to ascertain the truth and hold all individuals responsible for any wrong wrongdoing. Additionally, the party must implement robust financial controls and oversight mechanisms to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.

Only by taking decisive action to restore trust and demonstrate its commitment to ethical conduct can the Labour Party hope to recover from this damaging scandal and regain the faith of its supporters, both at home and abroad.

The ball is on Obi’s court!

Akpenvwe Praise writes from Ugheli, Delta State.

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