LP leadership tussle: Abure returns as national chairman

THE National Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Julius Abure, has said his position as the leader of the party has been restored by a ruling of Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.

Abure and three other leaders of the party – the General Secretary, Farouk Ibrahim, National Organising Secretary, Clement Ojukwu, and the Treasurer, Oluchi Opara – were suspended by an Abuja Federal High Court in April.

The court, presided by Justice Hamza Muazu, gave an ex parte order that the officials should remain suspended, pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging their continued stay in office over allegations of corruption brought against them.

The plaintiff, James Onoja, had alleged that the affected national officers had forged multiple documents from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, using them to carry out unlawful substitutions during the 2023 general election.

Following the court order, the party’s South-West chairman, Lamidi Apapa, announced himself as the acting national chairman of the party.

Apapa’s declaration was vehemently rejected by the 36 state chairmen of the party, who declared their support for Abure as the party leader.

At the resumed hearing of the suit on May 13, the court ruled that it has jurisdiction to entertain the matter after the defense lawyer, Alex Ejesieme, argued that the judge does not have the power to entertain the suit.

The trial judge held that it was no longer the law that the court cannot adjudicate in political parties’ matter, saying if the party had been at peace with itself, there would not be any need for the court to interfere in its affairs.

Justice Muazu, who held that the plaintiffs’ case was justiciable contrary to the submission of the counsel for the plaintiffs, Alex Ejesieme, said when there is no crack on the wall, there would not be the need for an outsider to come in to mend it.

He noted that the plaintiffs were equally right to have instituted the case through originating summons.

On the issue of locus standi of the plaintiffs to bring the matter before the court, the judge held that being members of the LP, they have the locus standi to institute the case.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) had submitted that the matter before the court bordered on the internal affairs of the LP, adding that criminal allegations made by the plaintiffs in the case, could not be ventilated in an origination summon.

He added that the eight plaintiffs that brought the case before the court were not members of the party’s NEC and as such lacked the locus standi to institute the case.

However, at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, May 18, Abure officially announced the return of all suspended national executive members to the party secretariat.

He said that their return followed a motion for stay filed at the Court of Appeal.

Emphasising the unity within the party, Abure clarified that the Labour Party had no factions, dispelling speculations suggesting otherwise.

He reaffirmed that the National Working Committee (NWC) led by himself, constituted the sole leadership of the party.

“Having appealed and file a motion for a stay which has been served on the judge, I and my colleagues have now fully assumed our constitutional responsibilities as National Officers of the party,” he said.

“It has become imperative for me to address this press conference to properly put the legal issues surrounding the leadership of the party in proper perspectives.

“It is pertinent to state categorically that Labour Party has no faction. It has only one leadership and that leadership is the National Working Committee led by myself, Barrister Julius Abure.”

Abure expressed concern over the burglary that occurred at the party secretariat, which he alleged was orchestrated by the Apapa-led group.

He criticised aggrieved party members for their impatience, pointing out that they had appointed themselves as national officers of the party without waiting for the final judgment of the court.

There was a melodrama on Wednesday, May 17, as the Apapa-led faction clashed during the pre-hearing of the petition filed by the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, against President-elect, Bola Tinubu.




     

     

    The clash occured between the acting national chairman, Apapa, and Akin Osuntokun, the director general of the party’s presidential campaign committee.

    Apapa had sought to sit in the seat designated for Abure, the suspended national chairman, but the move was rejected by members of Abure’s faction, led by Osuntokun.

    When the petition was summoned, Apapa and the party’s National Women’s Leader, Dudu Manugu, attempted to appear on behalf of the Labour Party.

    However, the Tribunal rejected their requests.

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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