•Says Abure forged late predecessor’s signature, audited account to INEC
•Party reacts, says accuser under external influence
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Wale Igbintade in Lagos
A fresh crisis has hit the Labour Party after the National Treasurer of the party, Mrs. Olzuchi Oparah, accused the National Chairman, Julius Abure, of misappropriating the sum of N 3.5 billion being proceeds of sales of forms for the 2023 general election.
The national treasurer also accused Abure of forging the signature of his late predecessor, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, to steal the funds of the party, as well as fabricated an audited account of the party presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Oparah also claimed that Abure attempted to bribe her with a car and a house, which she declined, just as the party leadership has dismissed her claims, saying she was under external influence.
According to Mrs 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.”
She stressed said, “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.
“His tenure has been marred by forgery, embezzlement, and corrupt enrichment, all at the expense of the party and its members. He has unilaterally depleted the party’s bank accounts, often through fraudulent means, including forging the signature of his predecessor and our late national chairman – Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, immediately after his demise.
“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 not only hinders my ability to carry out my responsibilities but also raises serious questions about the chairman’s transparency and accountability.
“Under Mr Abure’s watch, over N3.5 billion was raised from the sale of nomination forms for the 2023 general election. However, apart from the proceeds of the sale of forms from his home state of Edo, which was diverted to Mr Abure’s private accounts, he only declared N55 million to me as Treasurer, of the over N3.5 billion raised, pocketing the rest for himself.
“During off-cycle elections in several states last year, the party raised around N958 million from nomination forms and donations. These funds have completely vanished under Mr. Abure’s oversight, with zero paper trail.
“While on a fundraising tour in the United States in August 2023, Mr. Abure and his cronies raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from the party’s diaspora community.
“To date, he has not declared a single dollar to me or the NWC, essentially stealing donations meant for the party’s development. Indeed, not a single cent from donations received, was ever paid into any of the party’s accounts,” the national treasurer alleged.
Mrs Oparah further alleged that Abure regularly syphoned monies from the party accounts through unauthorised transfers to proxy individuals, including junior unsuspecting administrative staff at the national secretariat, as well as special purpose vehicles owned by himself and/or his wife and/or other family members.
“To conceal his financial crimes from the authorities, Mr. Abure doctored audit reports in 2023 and tried to bribe me severally – first with money, then a new car and even a new house, to ratify his hoax financial statements. I rejected his bribes and obstruction of my duties as Treasurer.
“Indeed, Labour Party remains the only major political party that has failed to submit an audit report of our financial activities for 2022 2023, to the Independent National Electoral Commission (“INEC”),” she alleged.
According to her, “Evidence suggests the chairman has sunk his loot into various choice properties in Nigeria and Europe. When he assumed office in 2021, Mr. Abure was practically destitute. His financial position essentially remained the same until 2022, following the entry of His Excellency, Peter Obi, into the Labour Party.
“Today, Mr. Abure owns multiple high-end real estate in Abuja, Benin, Uromi, and Italy, whose value runs into hundreds of millions, if not billions of naira. To the best of my knowledge, he did not own a single property prior to 2022 and lived in very squalid conditions.
“For many months now, I have persistently demanded financial transparency and accountability from Mr Abure, to no avail. I have repeatedly requested for bank statements and transaction notifications to be sent directly to my office as Treasurer, all of which have fallen on deaf ears.
“All calls for appointment of reputable external auditors to evaluate and report on the party’s financial activities have been vehemently rejected by Mr. Abure. He has clearly breached public trust and serially flouted our party’s constitution.
“I must also address the chairman’s attempts to cover up his financial malfeasance through the fabrication of audit reports and the coercion of party officials, including myself, into compliance.
“His actions not only undermine the integrity of our party but also betray the trust of the Nigerian people, who look to us for principled leadership and ethical governance,” Oparah stressed.
She added: “Mr. Abure has brought immense shame and controversy to our great party. His conduct has completely violated the trust placed in him by party members and the ‘Obidient Movement’ nationwide.
“Essentially, he may have single-handedly jeopardised our chances in past and upcoming elections, due to his penchant for embezzlement and financial impropriety.”
Reacting, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh, in a statement said, “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 a few weeks time, and who has served for 8 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 out 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 did not own several houses and property as spuriously alleged by our estranged National Treasurer, even though no law prohibited him from owning properties.
He explained that the constitution of the Labour Party in Article 14:1b provided that the National Chairman should be the Accounting Officer of the party while 14:1d, stated, “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.
“The party can understand 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 subtle effort to push the leadership to ‘settle’ her was rejected hence her resolve to fight dirty,” he said.