- Court of Appeal in Benin removes Lamidi Apapa as Labour Party National Chairman
- Appeal court in Imo state gives contrary ruling, sacking Julius Abure as National Chairman, Labour Party
- Daniel Ogbe, Enugu legal practitioner says only Supreme has final say on the matter
On August 23, 2023, the Court of Appeal in Owerri, Imo State, removed Julius Abure as national chairman of Labour Party.
However, the court, consequently, recognized Lamidi Apapa as its national chairman and the one Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should deal with, in terms of candidates of the party for the coming Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
To this end, the court also ordered INEC to immediately recognize and publish the names of candidates produced by the Apapa-led National Working Committee in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi states for the forthcoming off-season governorship elections in those states.
The court further annulled the candidature of Senator Athan Achonu for the governorship of Imo State and others produced for other states by the Abure-led faction.
This is coming barely one week after an Appeal court sitting in Benin, Edo state gave a contrary ruling, sacking Lamidi Apapa as the National Chairman of the party.
In the Benin ruling which held on August 15, the Court of Appeal has upheld Julius Abure as the national chairman of the Labour Party.
In the case of Lucky Shaibu v. Julius Abure & 5 Others (Appeal No: CA/B/93/2023), the court reached this conclusion.
The plaintiff, Shaibu, a Labour Party member in Ward 3 Executive of the Esan North East Local Government Area, had previously taken steps to suspend Abure and sought to challenge his status as the National Chairman.
A panel of judges, made up of Justices Theresa Ngolika Orji Abdua, Fatima Omoro Akinbami, and Sybil O. Nwaka-Gbagi, unanimously dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant in favour of Abure.
In the lead ruling, Justice Abadua upheld the ruling of the High Court of Edo State and ruled that the national chairman of the Labour Party cannot be suspended by a single individual.
The court ruling was made in accordance with Articles 13 and 17 of the Constitution of the Party and the extant Electoral Act of 2022, particularly when the appellant has been described by the party as unknown.
As a result, the Court nullified the previous suspension imposed on Abure, along with all subsequent actions carried out against both Abure and the party following the contested suspension.
Reacting to the judgement, Abure expressed his appreciation for the ruling and praised the justices for their impartial approach to the case.
Abure’s legal representative, GC Igbokwe, applauded the verdict, describing it as sound, courageous, and unimpeachable.
Igbokwe reasserted that Abure remains the legitimate National Chairman of the Labour Party until the forthcoming party convention.
The lead counsel to Labour Party, Prest. Aigbokhan said the decision of the Court of Appeal has given rest to the battle for the soul of the party.
According to him, “It is a landmark judgement that will stand the test of time. Anybody still associating with impostors parading themselves as factional leaders of the party does so at their own peril. Political parties must remain the watchdog of national conscience.”
Since the issuance of conflicting judgements by the two appeal courts, there has been huge confusion and anxiety in the camps of the two factional Labour Party excos.
How it all started
The Labour party which had become the new political pride in the country electrified by massive youths support, could be said to have come to limelight after the defection of Peter Obi from the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The National Youth leader of the party, Eragbe Anslem, was recently suspended by leadership of the party over allegations bordering on abuse of office – a suspension Eragbe has challenged and has insisted was illegal, null and void, therefore calling for his reinstatement with immediate effect.
In effect, the national chairman of the party, Julius Abure, became a subject of attacks by some aggrieved members of the party led by the suspended National Publicity Secretary, Arabambi Abayomi.
Abayomi has said that, “I have a lot of work to do and I will not take my eyes off the ball. These things are distractions. As a journalist, go and study those documents to find out anywhere my name was mentioned.
“I have a lot to do and my priority right now is to mobilise Nigerians for our party and our candidate, Peter Obi. I have this responsibility resting on my shoulder and I will not rest till the people’s mandate is delivered”, embattled Abayomi has told newsmen.
Earlier before this crisis, the party had after its last National Working Committee (NWC) meeting dissolved the executive of Ogun State chapter including the chairman, Michael Ashade, over allegations of corruption and anti party activities.
Their suspension followed a resolution made and adopted by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) after a two-hour meeting held in Abuja. The party has also announced the constitution of a caretaker committee to manage the affairs of the party in Gateway state pending when investigations of allegations levelled against the affected members is concluded.
Addressing journalists at the end of the meeting which lasted for almost two hours, the National Secretary of the party, Umar Farouk, said a disciplinary committee has been constituted to investigate the activities of the affected members.
According to him: “The acting National Publicity Secretary has been suspended after investigating his anti-party activities as a member of the party. The Labour Party chapter in Ogun State has also been dissolved.
“The Chairman and his excos have also been suspended. A caretaker committee will take care of the party. Also, disciplinary committee has been set up to investigate their anti-party activities and report to the NWC”.
Farouk who described the allegations levelled against the national chairman as baseless, said “the NWC has also unanimously passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of the National Chairman, Julius Abure”
He therefore called on party members to “adhere strictly to the provisions of the constitution and code of conduct of the party in the conduct of their activities.
“We also call on the general public to have more confidence on the party. We are anticipated these kind of issues to be coming up but the leadership of the party is working very hard to ensure that we are not distracted,” he added.
Like a mighty edifice in a cracked foundation, Labour Party went into 2023 general elections with a baggage of intra parties conflicts, bad feelings and “illegal suspensions.” WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that their failure to resolve these lingering internal crisis, has had reverberating effects that currently starring in their face.
The current leadership crisis rocking the Labour Party could best be traced back to April 18, when the party suspended a “factional leader”, Mr Lamidi Apapa, its National Deputy Chairman (South) and some other officials.
Following their suspension, the party also went a step further by appointing acting executive members to fill their positions.
In a statement issued by Ms Ladi Iliya, National Deputy Chairperson and Mr Kennedy Ahanotu Deputy National Secretary that Tuesday afternoon, the party stated that the decision was taken at a National Executive Council meeting of the party held in Asaba and attended by members of the National Working Committee.
WITHIN NIGERIA also gathered that also in attendance at the Asaba meeting were states chairmen and secretaries of the party and its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi.
The Asaba meeting was also attended by the party’s National Assembly members-elect, officials of INEC, those of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress, according to the statement.
It added that the NEC reaffirmed and upheld the decision of the Akure convention which expelled its former publicity secretary Mr Arabambi Abayomi.
The statement partly read thus; “NEC considered the disciplinary committee’s report which recommended the suspension of the former Youth Leader, Mr Anslem Eragbe and recommended him for expulsion at the next national convention.
“Pending the next convention, NEC suspends Eragbe indefinitely.
“NEC also suspended the following National Working Committee (NWC) members: Lamidi Apapa, Alhaji Salem Lawal, Favour Reuben, Gbenga Daramola, Samuel Akingbade and Mohammed Akali.”
According to the statement, the NEC constituted a disciplinary committee comprising the National Youth Leader, Prince Kennedy Ahanotu, Acting National Publicity Secretary, Mr Obiora Ifoh, and Acting National Legal Adviser, Mr Edun Kehinde, as members.
It listed other members as the Acting Deputy National Secretary, Mr Rotimi Kehinde and the National Vice Chairman South-South Mr Anthony Ezeagwu.
The statement condemned electoral violence and the use of security agencies to intimidate voters and perpetrate other crimes in parts of the country.
“NEC noted the resilience, and doggedness of our presidential candidate and its resolve to legitimately reclaim its mandate in court.
“NEC accordingly calls on the judiciary to do the right thing irrespective of whose ox is gored,’’ the statement also read.
It stressed its implicit confidence in Mr Julius Abure-led National Working Committee.
With this, the party is said to have set a tone for what would later become its greatest undoing in elections they badly need to shore up their support base in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states.
Apapa’s reactions to his suspension
However, in a swift response to his suspension, on April 20, Apapa equally announced the suspension of five party executive members.
The suspended members were punished for attending the National Executive Council meeting convened by the embattled party chairman, Julius Abure in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
This was contained in a letter addressed to the Inspector General of Police as a reaction to his purported suspension by the NEC.
The letter dated April 18, 2023, was signed by the embattled National Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Abayomi Arabambi and copied to the “DG- Department of State Security Service; Acting National Chairman of Labour Party; LP-NWC, NEC; Press: Electronic, Print, Social Media; Mr Peter Obi, 2023 Presidential Candidate of Labour Party and Fellow Nigerians”.
It listed Ladi Iliya Deputy National Chairman, NLC; Ayo Olorunfemi, Deputy National Chairman, TUC; Kennedy Chigozie Ahanotu, Deputy National Secretary; Dudu Manuga, National Women Leader and Innocent Okeke, National Vice Chairman South East as the affected members.
Apapa explained why Abure was not qualified by law to hold any NEC meeting of the party, noting that there is a pending court order of his suspension in the letter addressed to the police boss.
According to him, he is still the valid leader of the party, while urging the candidate of the party in the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi, and other members to disassociate themselves from Abure’s leadership.
The statement reads in part, “That following Julius Abure’s anti-party activities and disobedience to the FCT High Court Restraining order, Abure in CONTEMPT OF COURT ORDER CARRIED OUT AN ILLEGAL SUSPENSION AND EXPULSION of national working committee members under the leadership of Alh. Bashiru Lamidi Apapa.
“That the National Working Committee, NWC members met this afternoon after receiving information of the letter by the restrained former national chairman Julius Abure, and former National Secretary, Alhaji Umar Farouk Ibrahim and rejected the invitation to the elected members of the National Assembly to observe their illegal NEC meeting of our party in Asaba, Delta State.
“That by this rascality exhibited by these miscreants, the national working committee of our party led by Alhaji Lamidi Apapa hereby, suspend the following officers with immediate effect: Ladi Iliya Deputy National Chairman NLC; Ayo Olorunfemi, Deputy National Chairman TUC; Kennedy Chigozie Ahanotu, Deputy National Secretary; Dudu Manuga, National Women Leader and Innocent Okeke, National Vice Chairman South East.
“That the Acting National Chairman of Labour Party, Bashir Apapa, has declared the Asaba National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party as illegal, stating that its presidential candidate, Peter Obi should stop hobnobbing with Julius Abure with a baggage of forgery, perjury and financial malfeasance.”
Apapa leadership of the party noted that “Mr Peter Obi, the NLC & TUC leadership are hereby admonished to dissociate themselves from Julius Abure’s FORGERY, PERJURY AND CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY to avoid the shameful toga of Julius Abure’s corruption escapades”.
“That it is clear that Julius Abure has undermined National Security, Peace and Stability of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with this brazen lawlessness which should not be tolerated by National Working Committee NWC of the Labour Party LP under the leadership of Alhaji Lamidi Bashiru Apapa
“That by this rejoinder, the National working committee
under the able leadership of Alhaji Lamidi Bashiru Apapa enjoins the labour party members nationwide to be patient and avoid any act of provocation and remain steadfast while Julius Abure remains restrained by the FCT High Court and from further parading himself as National Chairman of Labour Party in line with the WARRANT OF ARREST already issued against Julius Abure,” it added.
Suspension of Kenneth Okonkwo, 11 others by Apapa-led faction
In any case, on May 5, the Lamidi Apapa led-Labour Party faction continued its suspension spree by suspending another 12 members for alleged anti-party activities.
Among those suspended is veteran Nollywood actor, Barr. Kenneth Okonkwo.
Barr. Okonkwo was one of the spokespersons for the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council. He resigned his membership from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) before the presidential elections.
Also suspended is the Acting National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Obiora Ifo.
Their suspension was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Bauchi State.
The communiqué reads: “That the NEC in session also considers the action of 12 of its members namely – Obiora Ifo, Kenneth Okonkwo, Mrs. Adebayo Ekong, Com. P.G. Igene, Adeola Adebanjo, Funke Awolowo, Sam Okpala, Folusho considers Olakemi, Olubunmi Adesanya, Lanre Adenuga, and Olatubosun Oswald – for their anti-party activities and unruly behavior against the party leadership, which include issuing statements without the authority of the party.
“The NEC in session, therefore, suspends them from the party. It also suspends all the National Working Committee (NWC) members and state chairmen and secretaries over contempt of the FCT High Court restraining order who participated in the illegal NEC meeting convened by Barr Julius Abure on April 18, in Asaba, Delta State, and recommends them for disciplinary action, and investigation for fraudulent and anti-party activities over their conduct of the April 15 governorship primaries in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi states, directed by Julius Abure and Umar Farouk Ibrahim, parading themselves as National Chairman and National Secretary.
“They are Prince Kenedy Ahanotu, Mrs. Ladi Illiya, Dr. Ayo Olorunfemi, Chief Innocent Agumba, and Mrs. Dudu Manuga, being the state chairmen and secretaries who attended that illegal NEC meeting.
“The NEC also examined the anti-party activities of some of its members and resolved that the faction reaffirms and uphold the decision of the Ogun State executives which earlier expelled some members over their failure to pay membership dues for over six months.
The affected members are Mr. Kehinde Shogunle, Engr. Akinpelu Shogunle, Engr. Lukmon Jagun Abiodun, Mr. Tokunbo Peters, Bukola Shoyooye, Barr. Oluwafemi Ibiayo, Feson Gbadebo, Dayo Folarin, Adeshina Shojobi, Bamjoko Ajekpe, Tunde Taiwo and Olatunde Abolade.
Others are Abosede Lamidi, Malik Olaleye, Adesegun Banmodu and Rev. Olufolabi Adebayo.
August 22 Labour Party Imo protest
Earlier before the latest judgement, on Tuesday, irate youths said to be members of Apapa-led Labour Party faction in Imo state, Tuesday, blocked the popular Imo State University junction along Okigwe Road, Owerri leading to the venue of the governorship campaign flag-off of LP candidate, Senator Athan Achonu.
Their anger was that the presidential candidate of the party in the last election, Mr Peter Obi, was coming to support illegality by endorsing Senator Achonu who was reportedly sacked by the court instead of their preferred candidate, Joseph Ukaegbu, aka Ikenga, who got the court’s nod.
However, the former Anambra state governor, Peter Obi, the National Chairman, Julius Abure and Governor Alex Otti of Abia state who was elected under the party platform, ignored them and went to the Kanu Nwankwo Sports Centre, venue of the event to meet thousands of party supporters who were already waiting anxiously for them.
Reactions trail the Appeal Courts rulings
However, reacting to the development, Enugu-based legal practitioner, Barr. Daniel Ogbe told WITHIN NIGERIA that despite the critical nature of the Appeal courts ruling, there is still a respite for the two factional excos of Labour Party.
“Any way, the court of Appeal Court is not the highest court in the land. It is an unfortunate development that the same court from different divisions is giving conflicting judgements.
“The Court of Appeal is one despite different divisions in the country. I think that there should have been some level of consistency in the judgements being delivered by these courts even though they are from different divisions.”
Explaining further, Barr. Ogbe who is the Enugu state gubernatorial candidate of Action Alliance in the just concluded general elections stated that, “the fate of Labour Party Guber candidates is yet to be determined.
“This is because it is now left for the Supreme court to make final pronouncement on this issue. And I believe that because this issue is of national importance, the Supreme court is to determine the legality or otherwise of Apapa-led faction of Labour Party.
“So, I believe the Abure faction has the right to file a motion of stay of action pending when the Supreme Court gives final judgement on the issue.
“We have only one supreme court in this country and any pronouncement they make is final.”
Also reacting, a Labour party member in Enugu state, Chief Lawrence Igwe told our reporter that it is very unfortunate that the Labour Party is embroiled in this kind of legal tussle.
“It is unfortunate that instead of preparing for gubernatorial campaigns in an election that is less than four months now, we are thinking of how to get out of this legal tussle.
“I believe strongly that if Supreme court rules in our favour, we will surely win the Imo Guber election.”
Expectedly, the Julius Abure-led National Working Committee of the Party has maintained that Senator Athan Achonu remains the authentic candidate for the November 11 governorship election in Imo State.
The party has also dismissed the rumour of Abure’s sack by Imo State Court of Appeal, accusing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of stoking the crisis in the party.
The Abure-led faction accused the ruling All Progressives Congress of destabilizing the party through funding support for the Lamidi Apapa-led faction.
The National Secretary of the Abure-led NWC, Mallam Umar Farouk, revealed this in a press conference, at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, yesterday.
Farouk alleged that “in order to ensure a subjugation of the Labour Party, the ruling party has deployed all manner of strategies to stifle the party, part of which was to sponsor insurrection amongst some suspended former members of the party, Lamidi Apapa and a few others. Their assignment was to ensure that no progress is achieved in the party.
According to him, “the heavily funded dissidents have tried to mislead the courts and some section of the media to harass the party leadership but all have failed. Only recently, the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City affirmed Julius Abure as the National Chairman of Labour Party (LP).
“We state categorically that Senator Achonu remains the Labour Party’s governorship candidate in Imo State as no court has stated otherwise. That the Independent National Electoral Commission has since published his name as the party’s candidate.”