A fresh crisis has hit the Labour Party as its National Treasurer, Mrs. Oluchi Oparah, yesterday demanded that the National Chairman, Julius Abure, rendered account of party funds in excess of N3.5billion, being proceeds of sale of forms and sundry fund raisers for the 2023 general elections.
Oparah, who made the demand at a briefing in Abuja, said the National Chairman has prevented her from exercising her constitutionally assigned role of handling the party’s accounts.
She equally alleged that the chairman had so far shunned all entreaties to open the party’s books for scrutiny since the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms closed, prior to the 2023 general elections.
Oparah said: “It is with great reluctance and deep concern that I am compelled to address the media publicly regarding the egregious financial mismanagement and corruption that have plagued our beloved party under the leadership of Mr Julius Abure, the current national chairman.
“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.
“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.
“One of the most alarming aspects of Mr Abure’s conduct is his repeated denial of my access to the party’s financial records and bank accounts.
“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 elections.
“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 taking 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 chairman regularly syphones monies from the party accounts through unauthorised transfers to proxy individuals, including junior, unsuspecting administrative staff at our national secretariat, as well as special purpose vehicles owned by himself and/or his wife and/or other family members.
“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 andf financial impropriety.
“I urge Mr Abure to immediately answer the following: Provide documentation for the N3.5 billion raised from the sale of forms for the 2023 elections and why Edo State proceeds went into private accounts.
“Account for the N958 million raised from off-cycle elections in 2023. Provide paper trails and documentary evidence of adherence to due process.
“Declare every single dollar raised from the 2023 US fundraising tour and provide documentation on where donations were warehoused and how same was appropriated.
“Explain the source of funds for properties bought in Nigeria and abroad between 2022 and 2023. Provide paper evidence.
“Allow me unfettered access to party accounts and records as national treasurer. Submit to an independent forensic audit of our party’s finances, to be conducted by a reputable international firm.
“Explain why he has deliberately undermined my authority and flouted the Labour Party’s constitution.
“Provide evidence that he has not abused his office for personal enrichment through theft, money laundering, or abuse of power.”
No iota of truth in her allegations – LP
In response, Abure, who spoke through the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Obiora Ifoh, dismissed Okpara’s allegations as tissues of lies influenced by external forces.
He said: “The attention of the leadership of the party has been drawn to a news conference by our National Treasurer, Ms Oluchi Opara, where she raised a number of allegations against the National Chairman, Barrister Julius Abure, bothering more on corruption and abuse of office.
“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.”