Some armed policemen in two patrol vans, on Thursday, took over the national headquarters of the Labour Party in Abuja to provide a smooth take over of the party affairs by the factional body of its National Working Committee (NWC).
This is as some members of the NWC announced replacement of the suspended chairman of the party, Julius Abure, with the National Vice Chairman (South), Lamidi Bashir Apapa, appointed in acting capacity.
But Abure told THISDAY in a telephone conversation that he remained the national chairman of the party, given Wednesday’s Benin High Court order restraining the party from taking further action against him and other national officers of the party
He expressed disappointment that the security agencies had turned themselves to willing tools to perpetuate illegality.
Relatedly, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NL) has said it would mobilise workers to attend the proceedings of the court handling the case against Abure and other leaders of the Labour Party.
However, speaking after an emergency meeting held at the party’s secretariat, Apapa said the NWC members acted on the judgement of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, which restrained Abure from parading himself as the national chairman of the Party.
Aside Abure, the court also restrained three other officials of the party over alleged forgery after executive members of his ward in Edo State led by the Ward’s Chairman, Martins Osigbemhe, had in a press conference, last week, in Abuja, announced the suspension of the LP national chairman over allegations of scandals, forgery, perjury, mismanagement of funds, and anti-party activities, among others.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Hamza Muazu, also ordered that the originating processes of the court be served on the restrained officials – Abure, the National Secretary, Umar Farouk Ibrahim; the National Treasurer, Oluchi Opara; and the National Organising Secretary, Clement Ojukwu.
The judge held that the ex parte application for interim injunction restraining the “four officials by aggrieved members of the party before the court had merit and granted same”
Apapa, therefore, disclosed further that NWC had earlier reviewed the suspension of party members and exco that have earlier been suspended by the party leadership, adding that they have no reason to continue to manage the affairs of the party under such circumstances.
The three other officials restrained were replaced by Alh. Saleh Lawal, acting national secretary; Rowland Daramola, acting treasurer, and Prince Reuben Favour, acting organising secretary.
He said: “The NWC equally reviewed that recently there are some cases of suspensions that were badly handled. And this National Working Committee meeting has reviewed them, and the suspension all over are hereby reviewed and the officers are reinstated.
“With effect from now, the so-called officers whom the court had barred should not parade themselves as officers of the party until cases against them are treated or handled by the party.”
When asked if his group was sponsored by the APC, Apapa denied the allegation that the party has been invaded by the ruling party, saying the current leadership was committed to the ideals of the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
Abure had in statement released by the party secretariat, raised the alarm that the APC was using thugs and a detachment of the Nigerian Police Force to invade the party’s headquarters in Abuja.
“Though I was out of town, information has it that the agenda of the invaders was to inaugurate an illegitimate executive, which has been chosen for them by their sponsors. This incident is coming days after a similar invasion in our Imo state Secretariat, which up till now is still being occupied by the agents of the Imo State government.
“Only yesterday, our Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi through the Presidential Campaign Council alerted Nigerians of plot to hound him out of the country over APC’s covert plot in collaboration with some security agents to frame him up allegedly on matters bothering on treason.
“Labour Party is only a political party which is contesting for power. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), having conducted election ranked us third, a position we have rejected and have approached the Tribunal to contest. That is our only offence.
“We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to call his party, the APC to order and also rein them in from using unorthodox means to suffocate political structures in Nigeria,” he said.
Further speaking with THISDAY in a telephone chat, Abure accused the court and the police of being used to undermine the gains of democracy.
Meanwhile, the NLC while urging the court to review its decision, because the affected national officers of LP remained the authentic executives of the party, it condemned the exparte order to suspend them all.
A statement signed by the NLC President, Mr. Joe Ajaero, stated he was alarmed by the decision of Justice Muazu to suspend the embattled officers on unfounded/unproven and highly speculative and malicious allegations of corruption, perjury and forgery by elements whose interest in the party could best be described as doubtful or dubious.
“The court order according to Justice Hamza Muazu is to subsist pending the hearing and determination of a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction,” he said.
NLC president said he viewed the development “with great suspicion which cannot be far from the intent to weaken the party from within or distract it from its fight to reclaim its victories at the polls,” and therefore, threatened to mobilise members to back the LP officials.
“At the next adjourned date we are going to be in court in our numbers to listen to the Judge. In light of this, we urge the courts to exercise utmost caution in entertaining frivolous suits and spurious prayers from mercenary party members as they are capable of compromising the integrity of the courts.”