New Telegraph

Why agents of destabilisation are after LP –Abure

Oluchi Opara, the National Treasurer of your party said that you should answer to some of the allegations against you. Among the accusations is that you used the money realized from the sale of forms to buy houses for yourself across the country and overseas. How do you react to these?

I need to make it clear that I am the first National Chairman of the Labour Party that ensured that we have financial records in office. Before my assumption of office as the national chairman of the party in 2021, there were no financial records in the office. Oluchi Opara has been the National Treasurer of the party from 2014 to date. I challenge her to bring all her records from 2014, when she became the national treasurer to 2020 and 2021 before I assumed office as the National Chairman of the party. Today, as we speak, there is an accountant in the office. All the books of account are open; the cash books, vouchers and receipt of payment, are all available, including all the bank statements. I must make it clear that I have never at any point in time stopped or prevented Oluchi Opara from carrying out her duty as national treasury of the party. If you look at our party’s constitution, page 28 is very clear what the responsibilities of the national treasurer are, to receive money, and pay the same immediately to the party’s account. Today, it is no longer the vogue for people to pay money to the treasurer, who will in turn pay into the party’s account. People do direct transfers into the party’s account. The second role of the financial treasurer is to compile financial reports and then present them to the house. The third function is to sign cheques. I must state here that those records are available in the office, but when it became apparent that she needed those documents, we immediately wrote to the bank. I have copies of the letters that we wrote to the bank. We told the bank to make the documents available to her, so that she could go ahead to compile her records. At no time have we stopped Oluchi from performing her functions as the national treasurer of the party. I also want to make it clear that it is not true that the party has collected N3.5 billion. I need to make it clear that we already have an audited report made by a certified auditor of the party. We have an external auditor who has reviewed all the records and we have all the audited statements of account from 2022 to 2023. All the records are available. The total money that entered the party’s account between 2022 and now is N1.3 billion. We also got N700 million which were campaign funds that went straight to the campaign organisation for the campaigns. I don’t know where she got the N3.5 billion that she talked about. I want to challenge her to make the records available where she arrived at the sum of N3.5 billion as money generated during the elections.

She made mention of the fact that the former chairman, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam passed away on December 29, 2020; that N14 million was paid into the party’s account on February 18, 2021 and that most of the N14 million was withdrawn between February 28 and March 7, 2021, which she didn’t co-sign. At that time there were only three signatories to the account – yourself, the late chairman and herself. Who signed the cheques and how did that money leave the account if one signatory had passed and she was not aware of the transactions?

The late chairman Abdulkadrim Abdulsalam passed on December 29, 2020 and on December 31, 2020, we had a new acting National Chairman, Maria Lebeke, who took over and we made all the changes in the account. That was how we were able to run the party from January 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 2021 and March 2021 was withdrawn and co-signed with the acting national chairman of the party, 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 a signatory. We were able to withdraw money because we made all the changes in the signatory. We brought in the new acting chairman who co-signed all the cheques. Oluchi Opara equally co-signed the cheques. For example, all the money that was used during the NEC meeting in March was co-signed between the acting chairman and the treasurer. 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. There can be no vacuum in leadership. There can be no vacuum in running an organisation. Immediately after Abdulkadrim Abdulsalam passed on, we had an acting national chairman. Some of us have shallow memories but if you go to your records, even in the news, you will recall that we had an acting national chairman for that period.

Was the not treasurer?

I have stated here clearly that she was aware of the change of signatory; you can go to Zenith Bank to confirm. We should not sit here and just make allegations. You can confirm from the bank those who were signatories to the account between January 2021 and March 2021. Bank statements will not lie. Changes of signatories were made and Oluchi Opara was aware. She participated in the running of the party. She co-signed almost all those cheques along with us and the acting chairman. Most of the funds were released during the NEC meeting in Benin and she signed all those cheques. You can have the account number, reach out to the account officer and do your investigation. She was aware. She is only being mischievous by misinforming members of the public of the true state of affairs in Labour Party. The picture she has painted is a wrong picture of the administration of the Labour Party. I am sure that is why the National Working Committee (NWC) is enraged by her character and behaviour. Some of these issues were brought to the attention of NWC and it set up a committee to look into the matters that were raised. She disregarded the committee and went ahead to make these allegations. She said that Peter Obi intervened. Yes, he intervened and asked her to hold on and that the issues would be resolved but she left, disregarded the party, its leadership, disregarded internal mechanisms of the party and decided to make allegations that are baseless.

How many bank accounts does the Labour Party operate?

Let me state here that we have three accounts, one is Zenith Bank, the second is United Bank for Africa (UBA) and the third one is Fidelity Bank. The three signatories are myself as the A signatory, the National Secretary as the B signatory and the National Treasurer as the C signatory.

Obiora Ifoh, who was speaks for the party said there are external saboteurs involved and who are using Oluchi Opara as an agent. Do you know who these saboteurs are?

What Obiora stated is the position of the NWC. I am sure that you have been following activities of the party. You will recall that the party came under attack after the general election of 2023. The aim is to destabilize the party, disorganize it, take over the leadership of the party and destroy the very foundation of the party, so that there won’t be credible opposition in the country. A lot of people are being used to destroy and cause chaos in the party.

Are you going to sue Oluchi Opara for defamation?

She was asked to provide evidence and she insisted that it is up to you to defend yourself. Again, in the 2023 general election, Labour Party provided a rallying point for many people who were looking for change, particularly the young people. Don’t you think that you people have disappointed those who believed so much in the party, thinking that it will be different from the other political parties? Yes, I must state here clearly that beyond just the right of reply, if not that there was an insistence that I must reply, ordinarily I will get people to do the reply and put all these facts before you. But I decided to come here to make some clarifications. My lawyers are working and a case of defamation will be filed against Oluchi Opara, who came to national television to defame my person and bring down my reputation. There is no way I could have taken this for granted. I have taken steps already. Unfortunately, those within Labour Party are being used to destabilize the party. Were you not surprised at the emergence of Apapa Lamidi, who rose and worked against the interest of the party? Today you can see all the porous allegations made by Oluchi Opara and I am sure that this is why the National Publicity Secretary of the party came out to say that external factors are using some people in the party to destabilize the party. It is not surprising; in politics either those in government or opposition political parties, who are against the rising fortune of a party will want to get people within the party to cause chaos in the party. As much as it is embarrassing to us, it is a challenge that is before us that we must deal with as a party. I am happy that we are dealing with it. You saw the behaviour of Apapa and others, who attempted to destroy the case of Peter Obi in court. They took several steps to disorganize the party and destabilize the party in the process of that litigation. It tells you that external hands are involved in this. This is also very unlikely in the case of Oluchi Opara. She is being used, and it is very clear. I am sure that very soon those who are behind the scenes will be known. You saw what happened to Apapa in the court during the court processes. The people reacted and brought justice to bear right there because they saw it. External hands are behind what is happening in the Labour Party.

A statement by the party alleged that during Oluchi Opara’s time in office; she ran the accounting process exclusively with the former chairman and also that there was no single document of financial records from 2014 to 2021. How did this go on without anyone raising any alarm about this?

We raised an alarm in 2017 and initiated the struggle for accountability. If you recall, in 2017, the party was also in turmoil like this where we fought hard and there was a forensic audit report where Oluchi Opara was responsible for signing and transferring money to personal accounts. All the records are here, from 2014 to 2017.

Why wasn’t anything done about it at that time?

Something was done about it. There was a national convention in 2017 and they were all suspended from the party. There was a special national convention that was called to address all of these issues. That national convention suspended the four of them. The crisis went on through 2018, and it took the intervention of the former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko and others to reconcile the party because of the 2019 general election. It became very obvious that if the crisis continues, we would not be able to field candidates in the 2019 general election and t would mean that the party would be deregistered if we were unable to field candidates for that election. Putting the overall interest of the party into perspective, at the instance of Mimiko and other people who wanted to join the party, we had a reconciliation and we needed to go back to work with Abdulsalam Abdulkadir. The records are there; the audit report is available and I can also make it available. That report indicted Oluchi Opara and the national chairman of the party.

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